New Caledonia’s final independence vote today – mired in controversy

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Kanak voters during the first vote in 2018
Kanak voters during the first Noumea Accord independence referendum in 2018. Today they are boycotting the final vote. Image: APR screen shot of SBS

By Stefan Armbruster of SBS World News

Kanaky New Caledonia is holding a final referendum on independence from France today. But not everyone wants to see the vote go ahead

The third and final independence referendum in the French Pacific territory has descended into controversy, with Indigenous Kanak leaders and Pacific Island nations calling for a delay or boycott.

France says the vote is legitimate and can go ahead today, despite a year-long mourning period for the dead from covid-19 and restrictions impacting campaigning.

New Caledonia referendum
NEW CALEDONIA REFERENDUM 2021

It is the culmination of a 30-year peace process in the territory, which is 17,000km from Paris but only 1500km from Australia.

“Politically it’s binary, and it’s one way or the other, and how do you unify the whole country when it’s one way or the other? And that’s when it suddenly becomes an issue,” says Frederic Folliard, a New Caledonian citizen living in Brisbane.

He supports self-determination but is worried after all these years that the process will fail.

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