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  • Wallis and Futuna
  • Frédéric Angleviel (bio)

The "non-event" of the year was the follow-up to the customary law crisis, as reformers have decided to abandon efforts to crown a new Lavelua (paramount chief, or king, of Wallis), thereby allowing Lavelua Tomasi Kulimoetoke to regain his throne. Procedures for dismissing a Lavelua do exist, but they have always involved, to a greater or lesser extent, both discussion among the families with titles and the use of violence. This is the first time in the history of Wallis that a Lavelua has held the title continuously for 46 years. The average length of reign from 1869–1959 was 5.6 years.

This exceptional longevity is primarily due to the political adroitness of the current Lavelua, who has been able to keep his throne despite the existence of other candidates from various royal families, and has also been able to maintain the important role of customary law while administrative and political power increased. His longevity has also been favored by higher-level administrators, who would like to see a strong power emerge. Members of the Lavelua's close family, the people actually running the Grande Chefferie (thecustom­ary government), have also encouraged his continuation in office, as the eighty-six-year-old Lavelua has not expressed himself in public for several years. It would seem that the Kulimoetoke family cannot imagine the idea of abandoning all the material advantages associated with ruling, even though the position has never been hereditary (Angleviel 2005, 2006).

During a television news broadcast on RFO-Wallis on 14 June 2005, the Lavelua's prime minister called for a demonstration of support for the former Grande Chefferie in front of the royal palace. One hundred fifty people [End Page 286] showed up the next day and went to the fale fono (meeting house) at Mata Utu, Wallis's main center, to prevent the swearing in of three members of the new customary government advisory board (fau). A former customary law minister, Sanele Tauvale (of the Reform Party) was seriously injured during the incidents that followed. The ceremony was postponed until the afternoon, and Clovis Logologofalau was crowned as the new Kivalu (prime minister) in the presence of the bishop and Senator Robert Laufoaulu. On 17 June, the reformers crowned a new Kulitea (minister of justice and culture) while the king's supporters (in Sagato Soane) installed another Kulitea. The same day, during the television news, Gaston Lutui, one of the leaders of the Wallisian department, criticized the prefect (Wallis and Futuna High Commissioner Christian Job) for diverting the pay from the Lavelua's customary government to the reformers' ministers, and demanded Job's resignation. On 20 June the prefect announced a one-month suspension for Lutui. Lutui then told the prefect, "You are going to tremble." Tension grew over the following weeks between the supporters of the former Chefferie and those supporting change.

The reformers, feeling that RFO-Wallis was clearly leaning in favor of the former Grande Chefferie and that the large Wallisian community in New Caledonia had been misinformed, went to Nouméa for a press conference on 9 September 2005. The delegation included, among others, Clovis Logologofolau (the new Kivalu), the Kulitea Nivaleto Pooï Taputai, and two Faipule (head district chiefs), Mikaele Halagahu and Pelenato Sione. At the press conference they announced that a new Lavelua recognized by the prefecture would be crowned on 25 September. The new ruler they designated was Ahu Hiasi­nito, former Faipule of the district of Hihifo.

On 25 September, despite the presence of nearly one hundred twenty policemen, the old king's loyal supporters put roadblocks in place, and some of the demonstrators had long-distance weapons and sticks of dynamite. The former Lavelua's supporters also occupied Hihifo International Airport. The ceremony was postponed again and the government sent a mediator over from Nouméa. On 26 September, New Caledonia Secretary-General Louis Le Franc agreed to the main demands made by the ­former Chefferie, which regained its legitimacy, authority, and allocations. The local newspaper Les Nouvelles Calédoniennes observed that "the show of strength that has been going on since last Thursday obviously...


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pp. 286-290
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