- French Polynesia:
Reviews of American Sāmoa, Cook Islands, Hawai'i, Norfolk Island, Sāmoa, Tokelau, Tonga, Tuvalu, and Wallis and Futuna are not included in this issue.
The period under review was one of mixed messages. On one hand, French Polynesia's reconnection with the rest of Oceania is accelerating, symbolized by an important business proposal with shareholders from other Polynesian countries. On the other hand, the French state's repressive colonial policies continue unabatedly: Just as an old act of arbitrary colonial injustice from the 1950s was finally revised, new acts were committed, with the French judiciary removing the pro-independence opposition leader from the political scene and prosecuting him and two of his subordinates for minor irregularities that are common among local politicians. Meanwhile, tourism, the only significant economic motor of the country's private sector, is taking off again, but long-term perspectives on how to overcome the dependency on French subsidies are still lacking, as the legacy of thirty years of nuclear testing continues to haunt the territory in all aspects.
As part of French President Emmanuel Macron's plans to streamline France's political system, in June 2018 a project to reform French Polynesia's organic law was initiated. Part of the project aimed to reduce the number of representatives of the territory in the Paris National Assembly and Senate and to create term limits for the president of French Polynesia and the mayors of municipalities. These proposals met with protests across the local political spectrum (otr, 26 June, 7 July 2018).
Even more controversial was the clause recognizing the effects of nuclear testing that was to be inserted into the updated organic law of French Polynesia. After first recognizing the territory's "contributions to nuclear deterrence and defense of the nation," the clause then states that compensation by the French state for irradiation victims will be defined by law and that the French state will provide adjustments for structural and economic imbalances caused in consequence of the tests (Légifrance 2019). While the second statement sounds good in principle, the 2010 Morin Law intended to provide such compensation is still inefficient at offering meaningful relief to patients suffering from radiation-induced ailments, which is partly due to an amendment introduced by—ironically—one of French Polynesia's own two senators, Lana Tetuanui (Tapura), and passed in November of 2018 (dt, 22 May 2019). In consequence, nuclear test victim associations 193 and Moruroa e Tatou staged a mass demonstration with more than a thousand participants on 2 July 2019, the fifty-third anniversary of the first nuclear bomb [End Page 232] explosion on Moruroa, to demand a real commitment from French authorities to the compensation of testing victims (dt 2019) and finally signed into law by President Macron in July. Prior to becoming law, parts of the amendment had been declared unconstitutional by the French Constitutional Council and had to be further modified (TI, 3 July 2019).
The other major element in the organic law amendment was a modification of real property law so that inherited family lands could be more easily divided between heirs (Polynésie Première, 15 April 2019). Although many property owners will certainly benefit from this modification, it can also be seen as problematic, as it will accelerate the sale of such lands and thereby further contribute to the dispossession of native families, which started more than a century ago when the French colonizer replaced the traditional land tenure system with one of private ownership according to French civil law.
While supported by the ruling Tapura Huiraatira party of French Polynesia President Edouard Fritch, the organic law amendment was rejected in its entirety by the opposition parties Tahoeraa Huiraatira and Tavini Huiraatira. The formerly proFrench and now increasingly anticolonial Tahoeraa instead advocated for a referendum in 2025 on a status of free association with France (somewhat similar to the current relationship of Cook Islands and Niue with Aotearoa/New Zealand), whereas the pro-independence Tavini suggested modifying the French constitution to allow a similar process to that created though the Nouméa Accord in New Caledonia (ti, 16 Nov 2018; rnz, 22...