French minister says New Caledonia referendum on track despite covid

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Kanak Yes for Independence
"Oui" - Yes, the new sovereignty manifesto of the pro-independence FLNKS. Image: Magalie Tingal Lémé/PMC

By RNZ Pacific

France’s new overseas minister Sebastien Lecornu says New Caledonia’s restrictions over the covid-19 pandemic will not affect the preparations for the October referendum on independence.

Lecornu gave the assessment during a visit to New Caledonia House in Paris.

Paris is expected to send dozens of officials and magistrates to supervise the plebiscite, and both foreign observers and journalists are due for the occasion.

READ MORE: Independence for Kanaky? A media and political stalemate or a ‘three strikes’ Frexit challenge

However, anyone arriving in New Caledonia must go into a controlled two-week quarantine.

Lecornu said the foreign and the interior ministers as well as diplomatic posts would give instructions for distance voting, describing the role of the French state as impartial.

He said a document outlining the implications for New Caledonia in case of a vote for independence was still in preparation and would be presented to the parties concerned by the French High Commissioner in Noumea.

In the first of three possible referendums in 2018, just under 57 percent voted for the status quo.

Should voters again reject independence this year, another referendum can be called by New Caledonia’s Congress within two years.

French Overseas Territories Minister Sebastien Lecornu at New Caledonia House in Paris … a document outlining the French implications of a vote for independence is still being developed. Image: RNZ/French Overseas Ministry

FLNKS seeks three-year transition
The FLNKS movement says it would want a three-year transition period should voters opt for independence and the creation of a new country in the referendum on October 4.

FLNKS leaders gave their outline of a Kanaky New Caledonia as they prepare for the second referendum under the Noumea Accord.

The leaders say they hope to attain a 51 percent yes vote after securing just over 43 percent support in the first referendum in 2018.

According to them, the period after a victory should be used to draw up a constitution of a multicultural, democratic and secular state which would renew ties with France.

They say everybody, including those opposed to independence, will be allowed to stay.

This article is republished by the Pacific Media Centre under a partnership agreement with RNZ.

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