Tuesday 24 April 2018

French minister facing calls to resign for not singing national anthem

Christine Taubira, the French justice minister, faces calls to resign after keeping quiet during La Marseillaise and later branding the national anthem 'grandstand karaoke'

France’s Socialist justice minister is facing calls to resign after she failed to sing the national anthem during ceremonies marking the abolition of slavery, saying to do so would be “grandstand karaoke”.

Christine Taubira, the country’s first black justice minister, remained silent during a ceremony in Paris’ 17th arrondissement commemorating anti-slavery day on Saturday, in which Manuel Valls, the prime minister, and Anne Hidalgo, the mayor of Paris, were also present.

Her silence triggered outrage from Geoffroy Boulard, member of the opposition UMP’s Right-wing faction, La Droite Forte. “Taubira won’t sing the Marseillaise on the grounds that 'she doesn’t know the words’.

"Resign!,” he wrote on his Twitter account.

Justifying her mutism later on her Facebook page, Miss Taubira said: “Certain circumstances call more for meditation than grandstand kaoraoke”.

She pointed out that she had remained silent at another ceremony in the Luxembourg gardens, where she stood next to President Francois Hollande, who also kept quiet as a soloist intoned the national anthem.

“When the voice of the soloist stands out from the orchestra, I listen, and listen until the end,” she wrote.

But the opposition centre-Right UMP and far-Right Front National, or FN, refused to accept this explanation.

Calling for Miss Taubira to be fired, Marine Le Pen, the FN leader, said: “This unacceptable outburst is symbolic proof of the first order of the (the government’s) disdain for France and its people, who like to sing its anthem and are proud of it.” Jean-Francois, UMP president, said: “As minister of the French Republic, there are things that one mustn’t say that one does not have the right to say.

“In my view, she should have resigned a long time ago.” But Socialist colleagues leaped to her defence. Benoit Hamon, the education minister, said he too had been present and had not sung along so as not to “add our voices to the soloist’s”, denouncing the fact that Miss Taubira had been “unjustly” singled out.

The minister, who has enraged French traditionalists by vocally defending gay marriage and proposing what they view as laxist penal laws, was at the centre of a racism row last year after one far-Right local politician likened her to a monkey.

Miss Taubira was behind a May 10, 2001 law making France the first major Western country to officially recognise the slave trade as a crime against humanity.

On Saturday, a newly elected FN mayor sparked indignation by refusing to hold an anti-slavery ceremony in his town.

Franck Briffaut refused to hold the annual ceremony in Viller-Cotterets, northeast of Paris, saying the commemoration was an exercise to “gain attention as part of a permanent state of self-incrimination”.

His town is the final resting place of General Thomas-Alexandre Dumas, who rose to be one of revolutionary France’s highest ranking military officers though born a slave in Haiti.

Mr Hollande slammed his comments saying it was a fault not to be present to commemorate “one of the most illustrious members of his town”.

Polls indicate the anti-immigrant, anti-EU FN could come out ahead of other French political parties in European Parliament elections later this month.


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