‘Unthinkable’ referendum on New Caledonia independence challenged

"Non" to independence vote posters in Noumea - the pro-independence parties are not contesting next Sunday's referendum because of the covid-19 pandemic. Image: Les Nouvelles Calédonniènes

RNZ Pacific

A group of citizens in New Caledonia has asked France’s highest administrative court to postpone next Sunday’s third and final independence referendum.

In an urgent submission, 146 voters and three organisations said that given the impact of the covid-19 pandemic, it was “unthinkable” to proceed with such an important plebiscite.

They said that because of the lockdown, campaigning had been unduly hampered as basic freedoms were impinged.

For weeks pro-independence parties have unsuccessfully lobbied Paris to delay the vote and they now say they will neither take part in the vote nor recognise its result.

They also say they will challenge the process at the United Nations.

France, which deems the pandemic to be mastered, last week flew in almost 250 magistrates and judicial officials to oversee Sunday’s vote.

It also flew in about 2000 extra police, including riot squads, to provide security for the referendum.

Wallisian party opposes ‘political nonsense’
New Caledonia’s Pacific Awakening Party also says next Sunday’s referendum is a “political nonsense”.

The party’s leader, Milakulo Tukumuli, said the vote should not go ahead as planned because the pandemic has made campaigning impossible and pro-independence Kanaks said they would not take part in the process.

FLNKS wants referendum delayed because of covid-19
The choice of the third and final referendum date is being challenged in court. Image: RNZ/FB

The party, which represents Wallisian and Futunians and holds the balance of power in New Caledonia’s Congress, said all the same, the plebiscite on December 12 could not be legally challenged.

Tukumuli also said his party was against independence now because there was not the capacity to assume full sovereignty.

The December 12 vote will be the third and final independence referendum under the terms of the 1998 Noumea Accord.

This article is republished under a community partnership agreement with RNZ.

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