Paris ‘schizophrenic’ over its Pacific colonies, says Tahiti’s Brotherson

PAPE’ETE, 17 MAY 2018 (RNZ PACIFIC) – A leading French Polynesian pro-independence politician has described the French government’s stance towards its Pacific colonies as schizophrenic.

Five years ago, the UN General Assembly re-inscribed French Polynesia on the decolonisation list, but Moetai Brotherson said French diplomats still boycotted any UN negotiations involving the territory.

Paris described the reeinscription as a glaring interference on part of the UN.

Brotherson said at the same time Paris cooperates with the UN on New Caledonia which was listed during the unrest of the 1980s.

“When the topics of New Caledonia is raised at the UN they stay in the room whereas whenever it comes to the topic of French Polynesia they leave the room and then they come back afterwards. To us, it is total disrespect and we don’t think it’s posture that they can adopt much longer.”

Brotherson said maybe France only acted in New Caledonia’s case because the threat by the Kanak separatists was feared to get out of hands.

“It all comes down to violence,” he said.

“We have been very proud and very glad to achieve our reinscription without any bloodshed whereas in New Caledonia more than 80 people died for that.

“So maybe [it is] the only language that France accepts to listen to which would be a pity.”

France removed its Pacific territories from the decolonisation list in 1947 – a year after after the UN had set it up.

Brotherson also said he had reservations about France’s geopolitical plans.

Earlier this month, President Emmanuel Macron said in the Indo-Pacific space he wanted to counter China’s influence as it could create a hegemony which would reduce liberties and opportunities.

He said this axis would go from Paris via New Delhi to Canberra and also from Noumea to Papeete.

Brotherson said while Macron realised French Polynesia’s strategic location, Tahiti and its islands should not be drawn into plans of the superpowers.

“We don’t envision our future as a pawn for France on the geostrategic chessboard for France,” he said.

“We consider ourselves as a nation in building. Our role is still independence and we don’t want to be used and abused by superpowers, any of them, including France.”

Brotherson said he would like to consider China as a development partner while being mindful of the possible risks.

He said interactions with China had to be carefully managed to avoid what happened to some African countries.

“Going from soft power to hard power in many of these countries when they come to have established strategic ties.

“We don’t want to be in that position because we have welcomed China, we change one coloniser for the other,” Brotherson said.