France’s abolition of the status of an overseas minister has received mixed reactions in both France and its overseas territories, with a pro-independence Tahitian member of the National Assembly condemning the “bad signal”.
The position was abolished in yesterday’s government reshuffle and replaced with a minister delegate, a post given to Jean-Francois Carenco.
He will work alongside Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin.
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A French Polynesian member of the French National Assembly, Moetai Brotherson, said the change of of status “sends a bad signal to the overseas territories”.
“We remember the way Mr Darmanin sent forces to Guadeloupe. We also remember the declarations [against independence] in New Caledonia,” he said.
Brotherson said the new representatives were unknown to French Polynesia and New Caledonia, adding he would rather have a single minister exercising full power over the overseas territories.
Negative reactions also came from the French right-wing opposition’s Marine Le Pen as well as overseas territory officials.
Newly elected MP in favour
However, a newly elected New Caledonian French National Assembly member and anti-independence politician, Nicolas Metzdorf, said he supported this new move.
“An association of overseas territories minister and minister of interior is excellent news for our territories,” he said.
“It is a demonstration that Emmanuel Macron considers the overseas territories in the same way as mainland France.”
Darmanin and Carenco are set to tour all of the overseas territories, starting with a visit to Reunion on Thursday.
Darmanin said he put the institutional questions of New Caledonia at the top of his priorities.
“I think of the subject of ecology but also institutional questions,” he said.
“I think of New Caledonia and the Ministry of the Interior that has for a long time pondered on the subject with many colleagues there. There is a clear need for two ministers to take care of the overseas territories.”
Resigned after one month
The previous minister, Yael Braun-Pivet, resigned last month after just one month in office to successfully run for the presidency of the French National Assembly.
Carenco was Secretary-General of New Caledonia in 1990 and 1991.
Last December, New Caledonia voted against independence in the third and final referendum under the Noumea Accord.
The vote was boycotted by the pro-independence side which refuses to accept the result as the legitimate outcome for the indigenous Kanak people to be decolonised.
It regards the rejection of full sovereignty at the ballot box as the Noumea Accord’s failure to entice the established French settlers to join it to form a new nation.
However, the anti-independence camp says the three “no” votes are the democratic expression of the electorate to remain part of France.
Paris wants to draw up a new statute for a New Caledonia within France and put it to a vote in New Caledonia in June 2023.
This article is republished under a community partnership agreement with RNZ.