The proposal will be on the agenda when the Pacific Conference of Churches begins its annual general assembly in Solomon Islands this week.
The move comes after Tuvalu, Nauru and Solomon Islands agreed to back a move for French Polynesia to be relisted on the United Nations decolonisation list.
Reverend Francois Pihaate, Acting General Secretary of the Pacific Conference of Churches says campaigners in Tahiti have set a goal of independence within 15 years.
Speaker:Reverend Francois Pihaate, Acting General Secretary, Pacific Conference of Churches
PIHAATE: Yeah it's time but the problem we have now is during the time when we were under the French colonialism, and according to the UN Special Committee of 24 on Decolonization in '59, that each great power has to prepare each country in the Pacific under their leadership to move to self-determination or independence. But French in the other way has done something else than what has been decided in '59 by the C-24. But today we still have a problem and our people still need assistance from a great power such as France or Australia or New Zealand or other to really prepare ourselves to self-determination. For example like Fiji, Fiji has its own way of using resources to make their economy and all things to be setup as an independent nation. But as for us it is very difficult to move to that status now while we still need some preparation and be ready even for independence or self-determination.
EWART: So essentially what you're saying is that a process needs to be set in motion here, the start of the process, but do you know roughly what sort of timeline you might be thinking about? How long it may take to go through to the point where people are able to stand on their own two feet as it were?
PIHAATE: I think it will take at least around ten to 15 years for our people to be able to have self-determination. But we have already started some steps, like as you mentioned with the support of the churches in 2011 from the church leaders to Maohi Nui, and the pledge of the resident of Maohi Nui (inaudible), and then we took the issue to the workers of our churches to proceed to the UN, because they have their office at the UN, WCC, Church of International Affairs, to follow that up with the UN. And in April this year, there will be a visit from the WCC office from the UN to the church and maybe to also meet political leaders and other constituencies in Tahiti this year.
EWART: So how much influence do you think that the church can bring to bear in this particular issue? And how concerned might you be about the conflict between church and politics?
PIHAATE: Yeah because the church since it was established as independent from the mother churches from England and also from France, now the churches are a very big influence on all the decisions made by the government. And I think still now the churches still are a big influence, and I think there are other churches too who are willing to join this process to help our people to move in another way towards self-determination. And I might say also that the point of some meeting the re-introduction of Maohi Nui on the UN list for the colonisation first is not to go straight to the point of independence, but is for the UN to come and control what France is doing in Tahiti, to our people today, because there was no control, nobody to look what is really going on in our island in Tahiti. So that's the first step to move the re-introduction of the Maohi Nui on the list of the UN to be de-colonised is to be controlled by the UN, because there are things that are not right. And mostly the issues that are really affecting our people is decided in Paris and not locally.
EWART: So to what degree do you think that this process that we're talking about in French Polynesia might mirror what is happening in another of the French territories in New Caledonia? They of course are a lot closer to the situation potentially at least of breaking away from France that you're advocating?
PIHAATE: Yeah I think the French idea, it's not to break away from France, but is to …
EWART: But to establish a very different relationship?
PIHAATE: Yeah another way of a different relationship with France and to leave decision-making on political or decisions that can be made by our local leaders can be done Tahiti and not our leaders to fly out to France for two days and coming back with nothing. That's the main reason, is to try to have another kind of relationship. But we still need assistance from great powers to support us in this process.
EWART: But would you see ultimately going through this process would lead to some kind of vote amongst the peoples of Tahiti, or would you go about it in a different way, because obviously they're heading towards a vote in New Caledonia, which is why I was making the comparison?
PIHAATE: No I think we have a different way of approaching this issue than New Caledonia because they've almost reached I think by next year that will be the end of the accord, they have in Noumea. And maybe they will renew of they will get the independence directly, but for us we have to do it very slowly and surely and especially to have common ground on where we can talk with the French political leaders, and how the French can help us in moving towards a process and also with the help of other island nations and also from the UN, how to help us and how to assist us moving towards what we need, especially for our political leaders to do their own decisions, and for the people themselves to choose what is the right for him for the future.