- French Polynesia
Political instability continued in French Polynesia during the year under review. The barely two-year- [End Page 222] old pro-independence government of Oscar Temaru lost power to a pro-French coalition when assembly members switched their allegiances. However, the new government stood on very unstable foundations from the beginning, and its internal divisions became more and more apparent toward the end of the review period.
July 2006 started with the highly publicized inauguration of a monument for the victims of nuclear testing by President Temaru on the fortieth anniversary of the first French nuclear test on Moruroa Atoll (TPM, July 2006; TP, 2 July 2006). While former territorial governments had supported the French policy of denying the issue of irradiation, Temaru's administration took sides with the test victims association, Moruroa e Tatou (Moruroa and Us), and supported their claims for transparency, independent inquiries, and medical follow-up for the former test workers and inhabitants of the islands closest to the testing base. French High Commissioner Anne Boquet, however, declared the inauguration to be an "unfriendly gesture" toward France (TP, 3 July 2006).
In late July, Florent de Vathaire, a radiation expert from the National Institute for Health and Medical Research (INSERM) of France, presented the results of a long-term study of thyroid cancer in French Polynesia. The study demonstrated a correlation between exposure to above-average radiation and the increase in cases of thyroid cancer, making him the first agent of a French government office to confirm the harmfulness of the tests (TP, 2 Aug 2007). He called for the immediate declassification of all medical files since the beginning of aboveground testing and communicated the results of his study in an open letter to President Temaru, who read it in front of the Assembly of French Polynesia (TP, 4 Aug 2007).
On 4 August the French State Council removed Representative Nicole Bouteau from the assembly and declared her ineligible for one year. This was after the electoral audit office detected a procedural mistake during the election campaign in 2005, when Bouteau's party No Oe E Te Nunaa did not properly designate its financial delegate (TP, 4 Aug 2007). The harsh punishment of a young politician with no prior record of misdealings, for an accidental mistake, seemed at odds with the lenient treatment of other individuals previously charged with corruption. Although sentenced for embezzlement of public funds earlier in 2006, Emile Vernaudon remained eligible, and on 13 July a court abbreviated Henri Flohr's five-year period of ineligibility for political corruption (TP, 17 July 2007; TPM, Sept 2007). Bouteau, one of the country's most popular and respected politicians, was replaced in the assembly by Thilda Fuller of the Fetia Api party, led by Philip Schyle. The Fetia Api party now had two representatives, and Bouteau's party was no longer represented.
In mid-October, another political crisis occurred when trade union members attempted to force the Temaru government to resign. After union leader Ronald Terorotua unsuccessfully called for a general strike, on 12 October members of his trade union O Oe To Oe Rima (You Are Your Own Hand) blocked the main road into downtown Papeete. They were joined by members of the former territorial [End Page 223] militia Groupement d'Intervention de la Polynésie (GIP, Polynesian Intervention Grouping) under its ex-commander Léonard Puputauki. The GIP had been dissolved by the Temaru government in January but continued to erect roadblocks throughout the following months. Members of a bus drivers' union reinforced the roadblocks with their buses. The protesters did not give clear reasons for their actions, expressing only a general sentiment of dissatisfaction, and the Temaru government refused to negotiate with them. Temaru then left the country to attend the Pacific Islands Forum in Fiji, where French Polynesia and New Caledonia were admitted as associate members (TP, 25 Oct 2007). After the president left, the protesters removed the roadblocks, but on 21 October they occupied the presidential palace, the vice president's office, and the assembly building. Temaru interpreted this as an attempted coup and, from Suva, requested that the French security forces intervene. During the night...