Athanase Terii, the self-styled King of the Pakumotu Republic, is refusing to quietly fade away and is back in the news once again. News reports of the dissident Tahitians who have been agitating for years for independence from French Polynesia were summarized in a news report in 2013. That story reviewed the unhappiness of some of the Tahitians with French rule and their movement to establish a new nation in the Society Islands. They had gone public with their plans in 2010.

Children on Raiatea
Children on Raiatea, one of the Society Islands (Photo by John Abel on Flickr, Creative Commons license)

The Republic of Pakumotu, which has designed a flag, made the news again in 2017 for releasing its own currency, called the patu. The King declared that the patu would replace the French Pacific franc. The French authorities were not amused. M. Teiri, as his name is more recently spelled, received a nine-month sentence to prison by the French Polynesian authorities.

The news story last week, summarizing the recent activities of the Pakumotu adherents, indicates that the French are continuing to monitor the activities of the quixotic leader since he continues to defy the established territorial government. Not too many months ago, he was sentenced to a year in prison for circulating the new money, but he did not serve the entire sentence. He appeared on local television displaying sheets of the patu currency.

A sign for the police on Bora Bora, though the photographer notes, “You don’t see many of these in Polynesia”
A sign for the police on Bora Bora, though the photographer notes, “You don’t see many of these in Polynesia” (Photo by sofakingevil on Flickr, Creative Commons license)

He has also announced on social media that he is hiring 3,000 police officers for the new republic. He added that since France does not use the Euro in Tahiti, the patu has a better claim to serve as the official currency.

One of the more interesting aspects of this continuing saga is the fact that the independence movement being promoted by the King and his hundreds of followers appears to be entirely based on nonviolent actions and publicity stunts. As a result, the French responses have, at least so far, also been carefully controlled: the police have been restrained and the courts have imposed short prison sentences that have not been served in full.