French colonial law officially struck down

31st January 2006, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Jan 31, 2006 (AFP) - France's constitutional council on Tuesday struck out the key clause of a law that recognised the "positive role" of colonialism, ending a highly embarrassing episode for the government of President Jacques Chirac.

PARIS, Jan 31, 2006 (AFP) -  France's constitutional council on Tuesday struck out the key clause of a law that recognised the "positive role" of colonialism, ending a highly embarrassing episode for the government of President Jacques Chirac.

The nine-member council — which ensures that new laws respect the country's 1958 constitution — said the offending article lay outside the competence of the legislature.

Introduced as a private amendment to a law passed last February on compensation for former colonials, the article stated that "scholastic programmes recognise in particular the positive role of the French overseas presence."

Invoked last week by Chirac, the constitutional council ruled that school texts are fixed by government regulation not by law, and that the clause is therefore inadmissible.

The clause passed almost unnoticed for several months last year, but came to public attention thanks to a petition circulating on the Internet.

Academics said the article was a flagrant intrusion by politicians into the realm of historical debate, while left-wingers accused the government of trying to lay down an official version of the colonial past that ignored its huge human cost.

The row badly strained relations with the country's black and Arab populations just as the country was reeling from last November's rioting in high-immigration suburbs.

On Monday Chirac announced that May 10 will be an annual memorial day in France to commemorate victims of the slave trade.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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