(en) Polynesia (fr)

esperanto (lingvoj@lds.co.uk)
Thu, 05 Dec 1996 13:51:58 +0000

Translated extract from

Le Monde Libertaire,
145, rue Amelot,
Tel: 01 48 05 34 08

Interview with two Polynesian syndicalists..

Le Monde Libertaire: Polynesia, one of the overseas territories, seems a
long way from France. Held up as an example of paradise we often find it
hard to imagine the damage which has been done by colonialism. Can you tell
us something about the colonial history?

Roland: It is too often forgotten that colonialism was insatalled here by
military force; there were many wars and much blood and yet the Polynesians
tried to protect themselves against the invasion of the colonial forces.
France, at that time, managed to buy, in a somewhat disguised fashion, the
Royal family - the Pomare's - who were the rulers at the time. France
blackmailed the Pomare' Queen who was forced to sign the annexation of
Polynesia. I think that the methods used by France haven't changed much:
today, for example it is still a stroy of balckmail in many ways in
Polynesia and those who are laughingly called responsible are simply puppets
with no real power. Major political decisions are taken in Paris and one
could say that economically Polynesia has lived under perfusion for many a
year. If we take the nuclear question - despite a shower of money here for
more than 30 years still Polynesia doesn't stand on her own two feet. If one
speaks of her status one might say that this has recently (supposedly)
improved, changed but in reality a bargain has simply been struck between
Gaston Flosse - a faithful representative of the RPR (right wing) in
Polynesia - and his masters who have given him a little more power. One
might make a comparison with those African countries where France speaks of
so-called independence but at the end of the day she controls all and gives
out power to just one or two reliable folk over the colonial system and they
in turn become dictators.

Annie: Many powers have been given to the one man but these powers are
superficial - honours which flatter his ego. Fundamental power is retained
in France. Those powers which Polynesia might eventually have under autonomy
are somewhat vague the local courts had to be approached for clarification
and with the new status it is clear that France is still calling the shots.

Roland: I want to come back to colonialism, the destruction of language,
culture, the land our way of thinking. In the beginning France and England
split up the Pacific: England headed off for New Zealand, the Cook Islands
and France made for Polynesia. Religion played an important role in the
process of colonialisation. To start with there were the protestants and
then cae the catholics who colonised our way of thinking. Still today the
church is a pilar of colonialism. For example, they split up the land in
order to break her people. In Polynesian culture land cannot be sold it is
not individual property. She (the land) belongs to the community. She is
there to feed the man who takes care of her. On arrival the colonialist
insisted that Polynesians should give up their land in favour of a property
title which completelt smashed the unity of the Polynesian family. Today all
families have to deal with this problem somehow. In those days our festivals
and dances were forbidden. Places of religious imortance to Polynesians were
systematically destroyed despite their importance. With regard to language
and education we were told at school of things which had nothing to do with
Polynesia (France, Napoleon...) and this helped uproot us from our culture.
Many Polynesians don't speak re'o-ma'ohi or at least they speak it very
badly. They are caught between two worlds. They speak re'o-ma'ohi and they
speak French badly. I am sure that only a very small minority know their own
history, I myself only know a little about Polynesian history. Today it
makes me really sick when I see how Polynesian culture is refered to - just
folklore and clowns covered in tattoos to amuse the tourists. For me this
has nothing to do with culture. They are trying to westernise us. I remember
them telling us we shouldn't eat too many mangoes because it would give us
an upset stomach, that was what we were told at school. A whole system was
built up so that the Polynesian would give up hir culture; they were hooked
onto other products, prepared for a consumer society. We were also told that
women could pass diseases onto their babies and so they were given Nestle'
milk while they were breast feeding and then they were put onto Guigoz milk.
Day after day this was beaten into us. Today there is everything to do, for
example revamp the whole education system. There are very few Polynesian
teachers, doctors, lawyers. An education system is in place that is
incomprehensible to the Polynesian - the logic is different. S/he has been
force fed religion. People spend hours listening to sermons, it makes them
docile; it's all part of the system.

Annie: I would like to add something with regard to the land question, this
is a real scandal. In 1842, when Queen Pomare' ceded power to France there
was a treaty which was signed and which said 'we won't touch your land'.
Land is still owned by the tribes, it is a common right and French law will
never apply. The treaty was never respected. The State seized huge tracts of
land and handed it over to the Territories when internal autonomy was
declared in 1977. The Church has a huge amount of land also but the gift
that was given by the clans was simply the right to use the land since the
land could not be sold it wasn't a donation. The people were made to sign
anything. Now the Church is selling off the land to the landowners.. The
treaty has given rise to a lot of argument and was even taken to the High
Court but the treaty was never respected. This is hell because today
families tear themselves apart over a sliver of land whereas before such
problems didn't arise. It's theft. The aborigenes have won, the Maoris in Ne
Zealand will also win, one day, for sure, we will win.

Roland: I don't know the solution. Yes in New Zealand the Maoris have won a
lot in the way of land rights. I was there last year but the problem is
different because land can be sold to tribes, clans. But here we don't know
how to sell land or to whom because we have taken on board the buying and
selling system. Many people fight on the land. The whole system must change.
Perhaps the sale of land must be forbidden; take another look at all the
land which has been stolen (by the Church, the State, the legal system...).
There are people who are well off here. For example there is a young
landowner who has some little islands around Tuamotu. One might wonder how
he came by it all. Normally in Polynesian geneology all Polynesians come
from somewhere; from birth hir placenta is buried where s/he was born to
show the link to the Earth. One wonders how big landowners got to where they
are. In those documents which deal with the land question we find the same
handwriting, twelve signatures in the same hand. Given that Polynesians
couldn't read it was the local lawyer who wrote for them and made them sign
any old thing.

Annie: Hawaii is like here. There was a devastating cultural genocide
there. There are very hew Hawaiiens, they are nearly all *me'tis*, Chinese,
Japonese, American. They have a hard time getting their land back.

LML: Can you tell us something about how the territory is controlled

Annie: It goes back to 1984: the High Commission, that is to say the Pre'fet
(TN local state representative) represents the state and shares power with
the local administration with each having hir respective duties. Under the
left wing government the High Commission had a little power. With Balladur
this institution became more powerful. Since Chirac - Flosse's big brother -
came to power orders are given from Paris to Flosse and the role of the High
Commission is simply to carry out orders. The High Commission remains,
legally, the highest authority on the territory, Flosse has no power over it
so he goes straight to Chirac who hurridly gives out the orders. This was
how it worked in 1995 when the nuclear tests were being carried out - the HC
was a mere pawn. With reagrd to the assemblies they have no real power
simply a rubber stamp setup. They don't even bother to give a show of hands
when it comes to a vote. There's a funny strory here. Recently there was a
debate which had to be voted on on whether to reinstate casinos... all this
was illegal and there was an appeal to have it annuled. The opposition
called for a body to be set up to authorise the reopening of the casinos and
that this body should be made up of non-political folk. Gaston Flosse was
absent that day. The majority voted for the body to be set up. When the
president of the assembly got back he made them vote again. Same result. So
the sitting was suspended, a few briefings took place, the session was
restarted and this time everyone 'voted correctly'. This last vote was the
one that was accepted. It's always like that.