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  • Wallis and Futuna
  • Frédéric Angleviel (bio)

Wallis and Futuna High Commissioner Christian Job successfully addressed the territory's financial recovery by imposing an eleven-point protocol, which, among other things, obliged civil servants to accept a two-year freeze on promotions and a cancellation of overtime, and also decreased school support. For its part, the French State agreed to finance halfof the deficit (A $600 million). These measures generated much confusion, for instance, regarding how much of the responsibility for school costs parents have to assume; some Wallisians and Futunans felt that the local government, drawing largely on money from metropolitan France, should continue to fund transport and partial food allowances. Three ministers and the faipule (village leader) of Hahake, who sided with France regarding the school funding reforms, were relieved of office on 1 April 2005 by the Lavelua (paramount chief of Wallis), who replaced them with more conservative ministers.

In January 2005, Tomasi Tuugahala, one of the grandsons of the Lavelua of Wallis, was sentenced to eighteen months in prison for involuntary manslaughter following a car accident. His mother, Etua (the Lavelua's daughter), refused to accept the sentence handed down by the French courts because Wallisian customary law allows a faihu (amiable settlement) to be reached with the victim's family. Since the gendarmerie (national police) had been ordered to arrest the young man, she encouraged her son to seek refuge with his grandfather. A similar situation had occurred in 2001, when another of the king's grandsons had taken refuge in the royal palace after being found guilty of rape. The French authorities finally abandoned both cases.

Some customary law authorities [End Page 148] considered Tomasi Tuugahala to be above French law since he is a descendant of the 86-year-old Lavelua. Others noted that, while the 1961 statute confirmed the authority of Wallisian customary law, it did so only so long as it was not contrary to the French penal code. They thought that Tuugahala should give himself up and that the king should eventually abdicate or be deposed. The New Caledonian satirical magazine Le Chien Bleu wrote scathingly, "Some customary law officials like to invoke Wallisian customary law when it suits them and love of France when their wallet is empty" (No. 83, June 2005).

The crisis increased a notch on 13 May 2005 when the Grande Chefferie (the Great Assembly) of Wallis demanded that the high commissioner and chief justice leave the territory and wanted the Territorial Assembly to be closed. A delegation of chiefs went to the royal palace but was unable to see the Lavelua. With approval from Paris, High Commissioner Job suspended monthly allowance payments to the Lavelua and those customary law ministers who supported him in refusing to turn his grandson over to the authorities. On 16 May one man was seriously injured in clashes between Lavelua supporters and those who support change in customary law.

On 22 May a second council of ministers was named by those village chiefs who felt that the Great Assembly had made a mistake. They chose not to designate a new Lavelua. It is interesting to note that while the title of Lavelua is not hereditary, the current king, Tomasi Kulimoetoke, is the first out of a long line of rulers to have reigned for more than forty years. The initial stage of the customary law crisis ended on 7 June, when two squads of gendarmes (that is, forty French national police officers) were sent from New Caledonia to separate the antagonists, and the wanted man gave himself up to the French authorities. For the annual Free French ceremony on 18 June, thesecond council of ministers was present in the administration courtyard, while the original council assembled at the Lavelua's palace.

During the Wallisian royal family crisis, the two Great Assemblies of Futuna (Sigave and Alo) took a stand against the Lavelua and requested once again the creation of a vice prefecture and a local branch of the Territorial Assembly so that they would no longer be dependent on Wallis.

On 20 June 2005, Pope Benedict XVI named a replacement for Bishop Lolesio Fuahea, who retired after more than...