Pro-independence Palika ready to join dialogue on future of Kanaky New Caledonia

Palika's Charles Washetine
Palika's Charles Washetine . . . "things can't be done without the Kanak people". Image: RNZ Pacific/Theo Rouby/AFP

RNZ Pacific

One of New Caledonia’s pro-independence parties, Palika, says it is prepared to meet the French ministers due in Noumea this month to follow up on the aftermath of the 1998 Noumea Accord.

Among a dearth of formal contact this year, the Palika said the talks could be about a possible framework allowing for New Caledonia’s independence in partnership with France.

Last week, Palika, along with the other parties making up the FLNKS movement, stayed away from what Paris called the Convention of Partners, hosted by French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne to discuss the future status of New Caledonia.

The meeting was the first gathering involving the prime minister since last December’s third and last referendum, in which 96 percent voted against full sovereignty.

The Kanak and Socialist National Liberation Front (FLNKS) refuses to recognise the result as the legitimate outcome of the decolonisation process, calling instead for bilateral talks with the French government.

A Palika spokesperson, Charles Washetine told La Premiere television that Palika wanted to attend the Paris talks but followed the stance of other FLNKS parties which had reneged on a commitment made in September to travel to France.

Washetine said he was keen to start discussions as quite a bit was on the agenda for 2024 when the next provincial elections are due.

Dealing with decolonisation
He said for his side it was important to know how to deal with the decolonisation as outlined in the Noumea Accord, which is transitional in nature.

At the heart of it, he said, was the transfer of power from France to New Caledonia, adding that work had to be done to complete the process.

He said the outstanding powers, which include defence and policing, could be shared in a partnership with France.

At last Friday’s Paris talks, attended by New Caledonia’s leading anti-independence politicians, Borne said they marked the beginning of discussions on the future status of New Caledonia.

She added that Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin and Overseas Minister Jean-Francois Carenco would visit Noumea in November.

With a target date of mid-2023, Borne wants to conclude an audit of the decolonisation to assess the support given to New Caledonia by the French state since 1988.

She said it was agreed with the anti-independence leaders in attendance that they would broaden the scope of the discussions beyond the institutional questions, by also addressing vital subjects for the future of New Caledonians.

Equal opportunities
These include equal opportunities and social cohesion, economic development and employment, energy sovereignty and ecological transition as well as common values and reconciliation.

Borne said working groups would be organised in Noumea by the High Commissioner.

Washetine said the pro-independence side would co-operate but added that amalgams should be avoided as some powers were within the competences of New Caledonia.

This year, there has been little formal contact between the pro-independence leaders and the French government, with Paris being accused of being deaf to their demands.

Washetine said if the referendum had been held under normal conditions, the situation would perhaps be different.

In Paris, however, Borne said after meeting the anti-independence politicians that she was delighted with the spirit of responsibility and consensus of the exchanges, describing them as “faithful to the tradition of the agreements of 1988 and 1998”.

With talks now likely in New Caledonia, Washetine said he hoped that the upcoming period would deal with the fundamental questions, adding that “things can’t be done without the Kanak people”.

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

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