Pacific Islands Development Program/East-West Center
Center for Pacific Islands Studies/University of Hawai‘i at Manoa


PAPE'ETE, French Polynesia (September 7, 2000 – Oceania Flash/SPC)---A 24-year-old Tahitian who last month managed to fly from Tahiti to Los Angeles in the undercarriage of an Air France Boeing 747 was found guilty Wednesday of theft and trespassing in an airport restricted zone, but escaped a sentence, the daily newspaper La Dépêche de Tahiti reported.

Fidel Maruhi last month managed to enter French Polynesia's Faa'a International Airport and hide in a Paris-bound Air France Boeing 747.

He was found unconscious, suffering severe hypothermia, at Los Angeles International Airport while the plane was on a routine refueling stopover. Maruhi was located when airport staff noticed a piece of blanket sticking out of the plane's nose.

Maruhi told the court in Pape'ete that the main motive behind his wish to go to France was to "shake hands" with French star and world champion soccer squad head, Zinedine Zidane.

Revealing how he managed to board the flight, Maruhi said he spent the night preceding the Boeing's departure (on August 3) hiding on the airport's roof. Then, at two o'clock in the morning, he entered a VIP airline lounge and stole a jacket and a scarf.

A few hours later, just after the Air France Boeing had landed at Faa'a, he entered the airport tarmac and went straight to the plane's undercarriage.

Since the incident took place, security procedures at the airport have been significantly stepped up.

Maruhi told the judge he would not attempt such a flight again.

No sentence was imposed.



PAPE'ETE, French Polynesia (September 6, 2000 – Oceania Flash/SPC)---Newly-appointed French government State Secretary for Overseas Christian Paul has held his first meetings with politicians in the French Pacific territories, the daily newspaper La Dépêche de Tahiti reported.

The first to have access to the new French official were French Polynesia's President Gaston Flosse and opposition parliamentarian Emile Vernaudon, who met Paul earlier this week in Paris.

The brief meeting focused on matters regarding the French Pacific territory's political situation.

The main issue was the current bill to amend the French Constitution and allow French Polynesia to become an overseas "country" in place of the current territorial status.

Last year, a bill was passed in French Polynesia that made provision for greater French Polynesia autonomy, but the status change remains to be fully implemented after a constitutional review.

The constitutional amendment was to have been put to a vote during an extraordinary meeting of the French Congress last January, but the session was postponed due to a controversy surrounding another bill on the agenda.

Flosse (whose party is close to French right-wing President Chirac's) reportedly also requested Paul's support to amend a bill passed last June 22 that would merge French Polynesia's existing constituencies into a smaller number.

"I have sensitized the minister to the rejection (of the change) by most of he population in the outer archipelagos," Flosse said.

Flosse gave Paul an optimistic view of French Polynesia's social and economic situation, saying the territory's Gross Domestic Product (GDP) this year had reached 22 billion French Pacific Francs (about US$ 200 million) and that the per capita income was now over US$ 15,000, a figure Flosse said was "well over most other Pacific region countries."

"French Polynesia is an example for the whole of France overseas," Flosse was reported as saying.

But opposition (pro-independence) Emile Vernaudon told French media that French Polynesia was "dysfunctional."

Paul was appointed State Secretary for Overseas last week as a result of a government reshuffle in French Socialist Prime minister Lionel Jospin's cabinet.

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