New Caledonia referendum offers chance to turn page, says journo

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The Kanak flag and the French Tricolour .... an independence vote is due on November 4. Image: RNZ Pacific

By RNZ Pacific

This year’s referendum on independence from France is a chance to turn a new page on New Caledonia’s past, says a Kanak journalist.

The referendum is is due on November 4 – more than 30 years after a boycotted poll and subsequent violence which led to the 1988 Matignon Accord.

The agreement has allowed gradual progress towards independence to be finally decided this year.

READ MORE: 30 years on from the Ouvéa massacre

A 98 percent majority voted in favour of staying with France in the 1987 vote which was boycotted as the indigenous Kanaks waged a campaign for independence.

Violent conflict continued, including the Ouvéa massacre when 19 Kanaks and two French soldiers were killed but the 1998 Noumea Accord a decade later allowed gradual steps towards independence to be finally decided this year.

-Partners-

Andre Qaeaw of the Kanak-run station Radio Djiido said as the next referendum approached, the media had a role to play in keeping conflict at bay.

Speaking at the Pacific Media Summit in Tonga earlier this month, he said the situation did not need to be portrayed as confrontation between France and the Kanak people.

“People are influenced by [the] media. Plenty of media talk about the events as a confrontation – France against Kanak people or Pacific Ocean people,” he said.

‘We can change’
“What we are trying to do is show that we can change.

“We can also say that during the First World War, the Second World War, Oceanic people, they fight together with Australia, New Zealand and [the] French. So we have a common heritage so we are not obliged to be always in the binary confrontation point of view.”

“The challenge is to explain that we are not against France, we are not against another country.”

Andre Qaeaw of New Caledonia’s Radio Djiido … Kanaks don’t want to relive the events of 1988. Image: RNZ Pacific

Some politicians were inciting divisions, he said, but his people did not want to relive events like those of 1988.

“We try to be smarter, a new way of thinking things. We have Facebook, we have internet, we have tutors, we don’t have the same way of thinking [then] and now.

“We have to prepare the new generation,” Qaeaw said.

Pacific means peace, he pointed out and all people belonged.

“The Kanak people say we need to do better, to share and to think not only towards Noumea, the capital.

“We have 300 tribes. They don’t have water, they need schools, they need education and health.

“Pacific islanders, we just need that respect,” he said.

This RNZ Pacific news item is published under a content sharing agreement with the Pacific Media Centre.

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