TEMARU CHALLENGES FRENCH MINISTER TO TV DEBATE

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PAPEÉTE, Tahiti (Tahitipresse, Dec. 18) - French Polynesia Government President Oscar Temaru said Monday he wanted to debate visiting French Overseas Minister Christian Estrosi on RFO's Télé Polynésie Monday night.

RFO Polynésie Deputy News Editor Olivier Gelin, who was already scheduled to have Estrosi as a guest on a special live broadcast starting at 8 p.m., said he was not opposed to such a last minute guest appearance. However, Gelin added that RFO had not received an official request from Temaru or his presidential office.

Temaru announced that he wanted a face-to-face televised encounter with Estrosi during the French Polynesia Assembly's continued budgetary session on Monday.

If Temaru and Estrosi were to appear together on Monday night's TV news program it would be their first encounter since the French junior minister arrived in Tahiti early Saturday on his fourth visit since August.

Since Estrosi was on his way back to Tahiti on Monday afternoon from a two-day visit to the Marquesas Islands, there was no immediate word from officials accompanying the minister if Estrosi was agreeable to such a TV encounter.

Speaking before the French Polynesia Assembly, Temaru said, "I would like Christian Estrosi to accept that I be on the (RFO) set tonight to talk about this instability, this new organic law and the reinstatement of French Polynesia on the (United Nations) list of countries to be decolonized."

Tahiti's president was referring to the reform law that the French Parliament adopted last month with the aim of creating political stability in this French overseas community that has had four changes in government since the last general elections for the assembly's 57 seats in May 2004.

Speaking later outside the assembly meeting hall, Temaru said he had the feeling that the French government in Paris was "also responsible" for the political instability. He said he wanted to redefine things before a live television audience.

"We asked to postpone the territorial elections until after the (March) municipal elections and it (the Sarkozy government) has done everything to ensure that this happens before then," Temaru said. He was referring to the historic two rounds of voting scheduled for January 27 and February 10 for the 57 assembly seats. The new assembly representatives will then elect a new president of the French Polynesia government.

"I know the reasons--to protect each other, the buddies; always the same policy," continued Temaru, the leader of the pro-independence Tavini Huiraatira political party that dominates his coalition group of 27 assembly members, two short of a minimum majority.

The pro-France, pro-Tahiti autonomy opposition group To Tatou Ai'a in the assembly reacted immediately. Jean-Christophe Bouissou criticized Temaru for having been absent when Estrosi addressed the assembly during his last visit to Tahiti in late October.

"Your debate on the reinstatement of French Polynesia interests you, the Tavini, but certainly not 75 percent of the population," Bouissou told Temaru. His voice rising, Bouissou then yelled at Temaru, "Mr. President, if you had a debate with Christian Estrosi, you would be beaten hands down."

But the rest of the assembly's opposition, belonging to Gaston Flosse's pro-France, pro-Tahiti autonomy Tahoera'a Huiraatira party, did not share Bouissou's feelings about Estrosi's presence in Tahiti on the eve of the opening of official campaigning for the Jan. 27 general election.

Armelle Merceron, the floor leader of Flosse's party in the assembly, said during Monday's session, "The presence of Mr. Estrosi during the election campaign… has undoubtedly hampered the debate because everyone wants the (French) state's neutrality. Mr. Estrosi's visit is quite bothersome on that point."

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