Kanaky New Caledonia could become ‘associated’ with France, says Wamytan

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Roch Wamytan
Pro-independence leader Roch Wamytan ... an independent Kanaky New Caledonia would want to revisit its ties with France. Image: RNZ/AFP

By RNZ Pacific

The president of New Caledonia’s parliamentary Congress says the Pacific territory could become an independent state associated with France.

The suggestion was made by Roch Wamytan in an interview with the Catholic newspaper La Croix after the October 4 independence referendum in which 53 percent voted for the status quo, a reduced majority from the previous vote in 2018.

Wamytan, who was a signatory to the 1998 Noumea Accord, said if support for independence continued its growth to the third and last referendum in 2022, New Caledonia would become independent.

He said this was inevitable because of the provisions of the French constitution and the UN resolutions which placed New Caledonia on the decolonisation list.

Last week, the pro-independence FLNKS movement said it would invoke the option of a third referendum, which could be requested at the earliest next April.

Opponents of independence are against another such vote and asked Paris to become proactive to stop it.

Wamytan said an independent Kanaky New Caledonia would want to revisit its ties with France and join the ACP group of countries linked to the European Union.

Avoiding African-style model
He said he wanted to avoid a replication of the type of post-colonial relations which France built with its African colonies, which he said slowed their development.

Wamytan emphasised a desire to broaden ties within the Asia-Pacific region, including with Australia and New Zealand as well as the Melanesian countries.

With China having New Caledonia’s resources in its sights, he said New Caledonia needed to balance its ties.

Wamytan said France might want to keep a military base in New Caledonia which would be preferred, should China wish to establish itself.

Before the last referendum, he told a campaign rally that France was in no position to protect New Caledonia during the Second World War and the territory was protected by Americans, Australians and New Zealanders.

Wamytan also said France might still be interested in access to New Caledonia’s exclusive economic zone which could be granted at a cost.

Wamytan said the pro-independence side would meet the visiting French Overseas Minister Sebastien Lecornu but ruled out what he called a “consensual solution”.

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

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