TAHITI POLITICIANS DISCOURAGE GATHERING OF ‘ROYALTY’

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PAPEETE, Tahiti (Tahitipresse, Sept. 7) – The self-proclaimed descendants of Tahiti's "royal families" have denounced an unusual and unprecedented political attempt to discourage Pacific leaders from attending an historic Sept. 10-14 gathering of Polynesian personalities.

"Sixty-two personalities from the great Polynesian triangle" are expected to join Tahiti's royal family descendants at the historic Taputapuatea marae on Raiatea in the Leeward Islands. "It is the first time that these (Pacific) royal families will be returning to Tahiti in 1,500 years," said Hiro Tefaarere, a politician from the Leeward Island of Huahine.

But the estimated 45 million French Pacific franc (US$529,412/€377,099) event that has been in the preparatory stages for several months received a major shock from two of Tahiti's veteran political leaders.

A "to whom it may concern" letter dated Sept. 3 and signed by long-time, but recently less bitter, political rivals Gaston Flosse and Oscar Temaru was sent as a "Diplomatic Note to Leaders & Head(s) of State in the Pacific".

The message claimed that last Friday's vote of no confidence toppling the Tong Sang government had contributed with recent events in French Polynesia to create "a fragile and sensitive political situation in our country.

"For this reason, we would urge you to consider the inappropriate timing as we transit towards the establishment of a more stable Government in our islands. To this end, we request your understanding and patience as we are in the process of electing a new President and a new Government either on September 10th, at the latest September 15th 2007."

The message is signed by Temaru, who is identified as "The Server of the Maohi People, Member of Parliament, Mayor of Faa'a", and by Flosse, who is identified as "The Senator and Member of Parliament".

Temaru, the leader of Tahiti's biggest independence political party, is a member of the French Polynesia Assembly and is the mayor of Faa'a, Tahiti's most populated commune. He is also one of three candidates for Monday's assembly election to choose a new government president.

Flosse, Tahiti's political doyen who has been government president more often than anyone else, is Tahiti's senator in the French Senate and is a member of the French Polynesia Assembly.

Caretaker Government President Gaston Tong Sang was the first to react to the Temaru-Flosse message. Tong Sang sent out a message Wednesday to Pacific leaders, saying neither was qualified to make such a surprising intervention, made "all the more surprising by the types of confusion it leads to".

Tong Sang insisted that Tahiti's current political situation "will not" affect the planned gathering on Raiatea, adding, "It is up to the organizers to decide the organization and holding of this event."

On Thursday, it was the organizers' turn to react. Joinville Pomare, Hiro Tefaarere and Rote Maki criticized the Temaru-Flosse message. Tefaarere called it "outrageous, inadmissible and intolerable". He insisted that the Raiatea event was not political but cultural, with an historic goal".

The Taputapuatea mare is a restored outdoor ancient temple on Raiatea, which, according to the Open Road Publishing guidebook "Tahiti & French Polynesia Guide", is still referred to as the "sacred island of Havai'I" or Havaiki, the ancestral home of the Maohi people, or the first Tahitian people.

Taputapuatea means "sacrifices from abroad". In ancient times it became the international marae, where chiefs were brought for investiture. "All other marae temples were founded by bringing a sacred stone from Taputapuatea or one of its descendant maraes," the guidebook states.

A big delegation from Easter Island (Rapa Nui) arrived in Tahiti Wednesday night. Cook Islands Prime Minister Jim Marurai is due to arrive at the end of the week. Tahiti's delegation is due to leave Sunday morning aboard the government ship Tahiti Nui for Raiatea.

Meanwhile, Tefaarere said Thursday that a project to have the Taputapuatea marae classified as UNESCO World Heritage Property is being closely followed by the French government. During a marathon visit last weekend, French Overseas Secretary of State Christian Estrosi promised to help advance the project.

The marae is a key part of the Polynesian Triangle anchored by Hawaii to the north and New Zealand and Easter Island at the opposite ends of the bottom of the triangle. Inside the triangle are seven main Polynesian cultures: the Marquesas Islands, Samoa, Tahiti and Tonga in addition to the three anchors.

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