French Polynesia Battles for Independence
Image Credit: Pierre Lesage (flickr)

French Polynesia Battles for Independence


RAROTONGA – In a far flung corner of the South Pacific a secessionist movement is stirring with its protagonists preparing for a major battle looming half a world away. And if Oscar Manutahi Temaru gets his way French Polynesia could one day become the world’s newest country.

Temaru has fought a 35-year campaign for independence and indigenous control of his country in a quiet, non-violent but calculated manner that has been largely ignored by the rest of the world.

However, the world is starting to take notice. Temaru is taking his fight to New York and staking his country’s claim in the United Nations General Assembly where he is drumming up support from the world leaders for recognition of French Polynesia’s right to self-government.

Paris is bristling at the thought of bidding farewell to the last vestiges of its colonial past, in particular to a group of idyllic, tropical islands that have served France well as an up-market retirement home for its citizens hoping to make ends meet on a state-pension.

French missionaries began arriving in these islands during the 1830′s, sparking a series of rebellions and decades of gunboat diplomacy that ended in 1880 with France annexing French Polynesia as a colony.

France labeled French Polynesia an “overseas country inside the Republic,” endowing it with some autonomy including authority over health, town planning and the environment, while Paris continues to control its justice, education, security, public order, currency, defense and foreign policy.

An unassuming Temaru has been careful not to position himself and his campaign against the French and has been supportive of French President Francois Hollande, calling him a “friend” and a “democrat in the best possible way.”

Hollande is seen as the lesser of two difficulties.

Earlier this year, then President Nicolas Sarkozy irked the Polynesian leader with five terms as president under his belt by telling reporters that Temaru’s plea for sovereignty was “no urgent matter.”

But for Temaru the immediate priority is getting French Polynesia back on the UN List of Non Self Governing Territories, which for islanders is effectively telling the world that politically, places like Tahiti are effectively a remnant of an antiquated neo-imperial empire.

Parti Quebecois
January 2, 2014 at 10:06

We whole heartily support your campaign for independence. Maybe you should start by banning the french language and schools and promote the indigenous languages. Also take down all those french signs. Also adopt a local version of the quebec bill 101 only instead of banning english ban french
March 13, 2013 at 09:28

french polynesian independance wont last long. just you wait until us aussies finally get around to dealing with you all and your economic back stabbing. we will make european colonial days look like disney land :) 

March 12, 2013 at 15:36

I would like to let anyone who reads this know that I am Tahitian and this is what I have to say. 

-The comments that have been previously posted are very outspoken and in an inproper way. It is noticable that the people who posted such comments are merely voicing out their opinions irrationally with no backround knowledge on the subject.

-France may have committed unappreciable acts in the past however France is also responsible for many positive contributions to my country. I would say more positive than negative. 

-The topic surrounding our independence, I am a very big skeptic. I do not think that my country will improve economically, socially or enviornmentally if France were to allow French Polynesia to become independent. 

-Polynesians, specifically Tahitians, are not all that concerned with independence and the Tahitians that I know who are advocating for independence tend to have unrealistic reasons and expectations. 

-Remember, becoming independent is just that, independent. It is a very risky decisions and judging from my country's political enviornment, social integration and just the understanding of my people as a whole. I do not necessarily think independence is a good idea at the moment. I believe if we become independent, poverty levels will rise and there is statistical value that reveal there is also a proportional rise in civil unstability. If civil unstability is achieved then MNC and FDI will not continue, tourism will drop and our economy as a whole will become increasingly vulnerable and weak. (as brief as i can possible say so)

-I know my people, they think they can handle independence, but they cannot. My people love their ocean and mountains. The rivers and waves. They love the songs and dances that have been traditionally performed for generations. My people are fun, light hearted and peaceful. They are not politicians, doctors, economists or professionals for the most part. The proffessionals in my country come from Europe or of Europeean heritage. 

-It is those words like mr. sky used "kick the infedels out" and other horrid comments as that which create hostilities and fricition. Whatever happens in the future in Tahiti and her islands, it will be founded within in just, legal and peacful mannar,

February 15, 2013 at 15:18

@Mouthpiece Parrot you are obviously the mouthpiece or more likely Ringpiece for endorsing nucleur testing in other peoples countries, go and drink some toilet water, tool 

February 15, 2013 at 15:12

I second that france can go to h*ll for what they have done, murderers

February 15, 2013 at 15:08

How about self raising Selfuric acid? 

Jameson Davids
February 15, 2013 at 15:06

Suffer greatly are you KIDDING?? havent they suffered enough from your Nucleur bombs and all the Cancers and deaths you lot have caused, you are so hopelessly deluded.

February 15, 2013 at 15:01

Along with Otahiti, Its also high time Hawaii was returned to its rightful owners too

February 15, 2013 at 14:59

Exactly, give the indigenous people back there lands, you polluting exploitative arrogant thieves

Jonathon Sky
February 15, 2013 at 14:57

The only thing the frenchies brought to these islands is suffering and dropping massive nuclear bombs here, while the world sat and watched and did absolutely nothing, yes NOTHING, now there is a legacy of cancer and ill health and destruction, look what they did in Fangatufa, I cant believe the people sat back and let these invaders destroy some of the most beutiful places on the planet, someone should erupt some hydrogen bombs in biarritz or cannes see how the garlic munchers like that. The Tahitians should rise up and kick the infidels out, they are exploiting destroying and using your lands.

free tahiti
February 15, 2013 at 14:47

So do I its about times the imposters gave the tahitians back their lands, colonialism? most countries grew out of that hundreds of years ago

Shar Hall
February 14, 2013 at 02:36

Good idea about a stronger federation.


Shar Hall
February 14, 2013 at 02:34

Being a French Colony is not what puts food on Tahitians table. They have many other and better options for independence and would get support from all other South Pacific Nations. The French are occupiers and have taken the best and most from the Tahitians including not helping them develop better wages, health care, housing, and a sense of their own ability to govern themselves. Tahitians are pawns of the French and have no say in their own destiny. This has to end!

Eleanor Barrucand
February 2, 2013 at 06:36

Ia Orana to all,
How interesting to read the viewpoints of others.
My husband and I have just returned to Canada after having spend three weeks in Tahiti. This was our second visit, the first visit  being four years ago and it will certainly not be our last. We have a number of French friends who have lived there for many years . We have friends of mixed French/Tahitian blood and we have friends who are "pure" native Tahitian and we also have friends who are from other islands in that region,. So we hear many different viewpoints about t Tahiti et ses Isles.
What you hear from visitors who are only in French Polynesia for a short period of time (often only over night after or before going on a cruise), is that we, as westerners will never be able to see Tahiti et ses Iles in the same way a local resident sees it. However, that being said, we did investigate almost every aspect of what it is like being a Tahitian. Like every resident of any country all over this planet, there are detractors as well as very proud members of a society that is like no other. Being a French family (from France, not from French Canada) we know the French ways and cultures of Tahiti and France and believe me, they are different. Financially, Tahiti does depend on French contributions to the islands and  while Tahiti would suffer greatly IF France were to leave, but we must respect Tahitians who think and want independence. I am not taking sides in this debate because we, the ordinary people, do not know all the intricacies and nitty-gritties of what goes on between Tahiti and France when they conduct their talks behind closed doors.
I must ask this question….why is it that "outsiders" must always judge a country they are visiting by politics, finances and scenes of not so squeaky clean perfections of some areas. Has it escaped their minds that where we "westerners" have cities and towns and conditions that would shame the majority of what we regard as second or third grade countries. Tahiti is not a violent country. It does have unemployment and work is hard to find, and no one has any unemployment relief benefits. BUT, everyone looks after each other. The Tahitian people are generous. They are friendly. They are welcoming to all and sundry. And despite the comment that they are "lazy"…maybe some are lazy but the majority are not idle. AND if our previous writer were not smiled at, she was looking in the wrong direction. Perhaps if you had smiled, you may have made the impression that you  were happy to be there but obviously you went with a closed mind and a scowl on your face. Tahitians are  always smiling.How could you have missed out on such a lovely experience?. Did you have your eyes closed?
Am I defensive about Tahiti? Your bet I am. I am not easily impressed but when it comes to the subject of Tahiti and her people, I will take on anyone who would like to debate about it. In fact, at the age of 83 years, I am still willing and able to live among some of the most wonderful and beautiful people in the world in Tahiti. The thing that really does impress me about French Polynesian people is that even though strangers may think things are expensive due to imports of a lot of things, and conditions that western people do not regard as "nice enough",they are a people who are extremely happy "in heir own skin", Most prices are not much different to what we pay at home. It is more expensive in Europe than in Tahiti. There are no pretenses or false and artificial facades. What you see is what you get but do not judge by what your own country portrays. Tahiti and her people  are different. You should respect and honor the difference. And generally speaking,Tahitians  are happy. Are you?
If you don't like it by your standards, you are free not to go again.

Share your thoughts

Your Name
Your Email
required, but not published
Your Comment

Sign up for our weekly newsletter
The Diplomat Brief