France calls for proposals to revise New Caledonia’s political statute

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Kanak flag flying in Noumea's Place des Cocotiers
Kanak independence flag flying in Noumea's Place des Cocotiers during the 2018 referendum. Image: David Robie/APR

RNZ Pacific

France’s Overseas Minister Sebastien Lecornu has called on New Caledonia’s political parties to draw up proposals on a new statute for the territory within the French republic, following last Sunday’s referendum.

More than 96 percent of New Caledonians voted against independence in a referendum boycotted by Kanaks with barely 43 percent of voters taking part, less than the number who voted for independence last year.

It was the last of three referendums, which concluded the 1998 Noumea Accord on the territory’s decolonisation.

The accord’s provisions on the territory’s institutional make-up remain in place until a new statute has been adopted.

While the anti-independence camp and Paris welcomed the referendum result, the pro-independence parties said the vote was bogus and that they would not recognise its outcome.

They plan to challenge its legitimacy both nationally and internationally.

After previously saying they would not enter any talks with France until after next year’s presidential election, the Palika Party has now excluded any talks on what it called an “umpteenth accord” for a statute for New Caledonia within France.

Lecornu accepts pro-independence parties’ delay
Lecornu accepted the pro-independence parties’ position to refuse formal talks until after the French election.

French Overseas Minister Sebastien Lecornu in New Caledonia
French Overseas Minister Sebastien Lecornu … accepted the pro-independence parties’ position to refuse formal talks until after the French presidential election in April. Image: RNZ Pacific File

However, Philippe Gomes of the anti-independence Caledonia Together Party said the New Caledonia question should not be put on stand-by until the French election.

He said it was all very well to accommodate the pro-independence camp, but a balance must be struck to include the anti-independence side.

The pro-independence side said it did not feel bound by the plan to draw up a new statute by June 2023, which was to be put out for a vote.

Pacific Awakening, a mainly Wallisian party that holds the balance of power in New Caledonia’s Congress, said a final statute should be proposed that would offer shared sovereignty.

Lecornu wrapped up his New Caledonia visit yesterday, and said there will be a broad consultation of civil society and the public for a stocktake and to hear about their aspirations.

Professor Mathias Chauchat
Professor Mathias Chauchat … outlined instability emanating from Sunday’s controversial referendum, and pointed to France’s decolonisation record. Image: Walter Zweifel/RNZ Pacific

Call to deport academic condemned
New Caledonia’s pro-independence FLNKS party has come to the defence of a Noumea law professor targeted by an online petition.

The petition seeks the deportation of Professor Mathias Chauchat to France, and was launched by pro-French supporters in New Caledonia and immediately signed by hundreds of people after Monday’s televised post-referendum debate.

Dr Chauchat had outlined instability emanating from Sunday’s controversial referendum, and pointed to France’s decolonisation record, which is marked by violence.

In a statement, the FLNKS said it rejected threats and attacks on intellectuals, adding that France prides itself as the home of human rights.

It said calls to live together should not only be in a political programme, but be part of everyday gestures and deeds.

And that New Caledonia needed its intellectuals to free itself from the country’s dependence on France.

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

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