‘A lot of fire, violence’: Nouméa erupts as protests halt New Caledonia

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Kanak protesters in Nouméa demanding independence and a halt to France's proposed constitutional changes
Kanak protesters in Nouméa demanding independence and a halt to France's proposed constitutional changes that alter voting rights. Image: @CMannevy

RNZ Pacific

New Caledonians lined up in long queues outside shopping centres to buy supplies in the capital Nouméa today amid political unrest in the French territory

Demonstrations, marches and clashes with security forces erupted yesterday and French High Commissioner Louis Le Franc told the public broadcaster he had called for reinforcements to maintain law and order.

The unrest comes amid proposed constitutional changes, which could strengthen voting rights for anti-independence supporters in New Caledonia.

A Nouméa resident, who wished to remain anonymous, told RNZ Pacific people had started “panic buying” in scenes reminiscent of the covid-19 pandemic.

“A lot of fire, violence . . . but it’s better. I stay safe at home. There are a lot of police and army. I want the government to put the action for the peace [sic].”

The unrest comes amid proposed constitutional changes, which could strengthen voting rights for anti-independence supporters in New Caledonia.
The unrest comes amid proposed constitutional changes, which could strengthen voting rights for anti-independence supporters in New Caledonia. Image: Screenshot/NC la 1ère/RNZ

Authorities have imposed a curfew for Nouméa and its surrounds, from 6pm tonight to 6am tomorrow.

Airports are closed due to protest action.

Public services and schools in the affected areas announced they were sending staff and students home on Monday, and that they would remain closed for the next few days.

Meanwhile, New Zealand Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters, who is on a five-country Pacific mission this week, has cancelled his visit to New Caledonia due to the unrest.

Peters and a delegation of other ministers were due to visit the capital Nouméa later this week.

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

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