Island's rebel king stakes his independence

The dispute erupted after King Tomasi Kulimoetoke of Wallis, head of one of three royal families in Wallis and Futuna, objected to an 18-month jail sentence for manslaughter imposed in February by the local court on his grandson, Tomasi Tuugahala, after a road accident on New Year's Eve.

The king invited his grandson to hide from police in the royal palace. The prince spent four months there until he gave himself up on 7 June and was flown to the nearest jail, in New Caledonia.

One man was seriously injured when riots erupted the following week between supporters of the traditionalist King Tomasi and a group that wants him replaced by a grand chief more amenable to French ways. The previous month, the king's opponents staged ostentatious traditional ceremonies to send the message that they wanted him to go.

The 16,000 inhabitants of Wallis, Futuna, Alofi and 20 islets in the archipelago are are in effect ruled by Prefect Xavier de Fürst, who is appointed by the French President. Mr De Fürst heads the government, which consists of a cabinet of the archipelago's three kings and three members appointed by him.

Relations between Mr De Fürst and the monarch have remained tense since the middle of May when King Tomasi first called for the removal of the French prefect and the local judge, who is appointed by Paris. As a consequence, Mr De Fürst froze the king's financial allowance and the salaries of his ministers.

King Tomasi has now moved to defuse the row by reaffirming his allegiance to Paris.But the 86-year-old monarch added: "Our proclamation of loyalty to the state [of France] in no way implies our feudal subservience nor our intention to abandon customary law."

In another gesture likely to infuriate the French, the king also repeated his call for the removal of the governor. The governor did not respond to the pledge of allegiance but government sources in Paris reacted with caution, suggesting the king was buying time for domestic reasons.

King Tomasi, whose formal title is The Lavelua, has ruled the three districts of Wallis since 1959 when the archipelago voted to remain a French territory. Wallis and Futuna, where most people are subsistence farmers who survive thanks to European Union grants and money sent back by migrant workers, became a French protectorate in 1842.

There is no suggestion that the people of Wallis and Futuna wish to break with France. In common with almost all French overseas territories and départements, the archipelago supported the European constitution in the referendum on 29 May. The vote in Wallis and Futuna was especially high - 89.6 per cent in favour.

Mr De Fürst 's deputy, Jean-Marie Oustry, said: "On one hand there are the modernists, who are the majority and who wish to bring Wallis and Futuna up to date ... The king's entourage is extremely traditionalist. For us, it is a very complicated situation... but it has to be down to the Wallisians to decide."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: PMLD Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: PMLD Teacher A specialist primary school i...

Recruitment Genius: Online Media Sales Trainee

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Now our rapidly expanding and A...

Recruitment Genius: Public House Manager / Management Couples

£15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about great ...

Recruitment Genius: Production Planner

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Day In a Page

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

Homeless Veterans appeal

The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

How books can defeat Isis

Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

Young carers to make dance debut

What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

Design Council's 70th anniversary

Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
Dame Harriet Walter: The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment

Dame Harriet Walter interview

The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment
Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

Bill Granger's winter salads

Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links