France’s new Minister for Overseas Territories Jean-François Carenco was told to “find a solution” to the political impasse in New Caledonia.
Carenco started his visit at the Assembly of the Loyalty island region, to the west of the mainland.
He was greeted in local Kanak customary way, after which the party made its way to the site of the Easo Cliffs, a favoured tourist destination.
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Congress member Wali Wahetra said the minister’s speech mentioned a right to sovereignty as it is written in the French Constitution.
“It was pretty positive, but that is the goal of the meeting. He talked about the right to self-determination which I greatly appreciated.
“He also said that it’s a right that is inscribed in the constitution, that stays — that will continue to stay and will come.
“Mr Carenco said in his speech that President Macron told him to ‘find the solution’.
‘We need a dialogue’
Wali Wahetra also said Carenco discussed that New Caledonia had signs of identity and signs of sovereignty but also the right of a referendum.
She said that the pro-independence parties were not planning another referendum
“We needed a dialogue, because the anti-independence parties are still holding onto the referendum date of July which has been proposed by Mr Lecornu.
“However, we are not on this calendar at all and we absolutely don’t want another referendum as part of France.”
Carenco has deferred the referendum date from July 2023. He said a vote would happen once everybody was ready, noting there had been no dialogue for two years to advance the issue.
The minister was due to meet the New Caledonian territorial government President Louis Mapou’s party, National Union of Independence, and the Kanak and Socialist National Liberation Front (FLNKS).
‘Not an option’
He has been touring all three provinces of New Caledonia to meet each pro-independence camp.
Anti-independence groups say the date of the referendum on a new statute for the territory “is not an option but an engagement”.
They have written to Carenco to remind him that French President Emmanuel Macron has validated a new statute and that New Caledonians have a clear constitutional path.
The head of the anti-independence party Popular Movement Caledonia, Gil Brial, told La Premiere television that Carenco’s response did not match France’s obligation to commit to the July 2023 date.
This article is republished under a community partnership agreement with RNZ.