flosse security group defies president

Saturday Mar 12, 2005Members of a state security group at the centre of a judicial inquiry in French Polynesia briefly defied new president Oscar Temaru this week. Staff at the headquarters of Groupement d'intervention de Polynésie - the Polynesian Intervention Group - refused entry to Temaru for five hours on Friday. Staff also refused comment to local media. But former head Léonard Puputauki told Agence Tahitienne de Presse that the new boss, Robert Maker, "isn't capable of running the GIP." "He's not up to the job and furthermore he's always spoken poorly about the GIP. That's why the employees decided to not let him enter. It doesn't concern the president, but only Robert Maker." Puputauki said the situation had nothing to do with his sacked from his position. The problem is staff do not want to work for "those who have spit on the GIP". ATP contacted Puputauki "on holiday" in China. Staff opened the gates to Temaru when he returned a few hours later with three other cabinet ministers, but without Maker. Earlier, Temaru claimed that former president Gaston Flosse was behind the defiance shown by staff. He accused Flosse of "political manipulation" and a "wish to destabilise the government". "It's not up to them to dictate the law". In January a senior GIP official was fined 400,000 French Pacific Francs - about US$4,000 - for refusing entry to a labour inspector on an outer island project. Details about the project were kept under wraps for a long time. After media inquiries, the former government admitted it was a private luxury resort for officials from France and Tahiti. Promoted as a rapid response team to national emergencies, but more commonly seen providing crowd control and cleaning services around Papeete based events, the GIP have also been accused of acting as thugs for former president Gaston Flosse. Most serious of the accusations against them is the alleged murder of an investigative journalist by GIP staff in 1997. A former staff member told police he overhead colleagues boasting about drowning former Les Nouvelles editor Jean Pascal Couraud in deep waters off Tahiti. Vetea Guilloux kept his allegations secret for years before telling a cabinet minister in last year's four-month-old Oscar Temaru government. The minister was also a pastor in Guilloux's church, the Seventh Day Adventists. Details of the allegation were passed on to Couraud's family who lodged a complaint with police. The case had been closed years earlier as an apparent suicide after a note was said to have been found. Family members recently told supporters through their website that they were not commenting further on the judicial inquiry into GIP and the murder allegations until more investigations were complete. Meanwhile, Maker told Tahiti media he was unaware of what staff had against him. He described the situation as "appalling". Temaru gave Maker the job of reorganising the GIP. Maker said that means changing its image. "We want to remove this image of the GIP as a militia surrounding a camp and one person," he said referring to Flosse. "I think that of the 1,000 employees, there's only a small handful who are very close to Mr. Puputauki. The great majority just want to work."