New Caledonia unrest: Pro-independence calls for calm ‘to preserve peace’

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Burnt vehicles at the Renault dealership in Magenta district, Nouméa
Burnt vehicles at the Renault dealership in Magenta district, Nouméa, in the wake of rioting. Image: RNZ/La 1ère TV

By Patrick Decloitre, RNZ Pacific correspondent French Pacific desk

A group belonging to New Caledonia’s pro-independence movement, UNI (Union Nationale pour l’Indépendance), has released a communiqué saying they were “moved by and deplored the exactions and violence taking place“.

UNI member of New Caledonia’s Northern provincial assembly Patricia Goa said the violent unrest “affects the whole of our population”.

She said it was “necessary to preserve all that we have built together for over 30 years” and that the priority was “to preserve peace, social cohesion”.

Patricia Goa at the government of the Northern Province in New Caledonia
New Caledonia’s Northern provincial assembly Patricia Goa . . . call to “preserve all that we have built together for over 30 years.” Image: Walter Zweifel/RNZ

New Caledonia’s territorial President, pro-independence leader Louis Mapou, in a news release from his “collegial” government, appealed for “calm, peace, stability and reason”.

He said they “must remain our goals” in the face of “those events that can only show the persistence of profound fractures and misunderstandings”.

Louis Mapou of New Caledonia's pro-independence UNI Party
New Caledonia President Louis Mapou . . . an appeal to “bring back reason and calm”. Photo: RNZ Walter Zweifel

He called on all components of New Caledonia’s society to “use every way and means to bring back reason and calm”.

“Every explanation for these frustrations — anger cannot justify harming or destroying public property, production tools, all of which this country has taken decades to build,” he said, strongly condemning such actions.

Referring to current debates in the Paris National Assembly on changing the French Constitution — to allow more voters at New Caledonia’s local provincial elections — Mapou also appealed to French President Emmanuel Macron, to “bear in mind” that at all times, the priority must remain for a comprehensive agreement to be struck between all political leaders of New Caledonia, to pave the way for the archipelago’s long-term political future.

This accord has not taken place and Macron at the weekend invited all of New Caledonia’s leaders to restart discussions in Paris.

Protestors take part in a demonstration led by the Union of Kanak Workers and the Exploited (USTKE) and organisations of the Kanaky Solidarity Collective in support of Kanak people, with flags of the Socialist Kanak National Liberation Front (FLNKS) next to a statue of Vauban, amid a debate at the French National Assembly on the constitutional bill aimed at enlarging the electorate of the overseas French territory of New Caledonia, in Paris on May 14, 2024. France's prime minister on May 14, 2024, urged the restoration of calm in New Caledonia after the French Pacific archipelago was rocked by a night of rioting against a controversial voting reform that has angered pro-independence forces.
Protesters take part in a demonstration led by the Union of Kanak Workers and the Exploited (USTKE) and organisations of the Kanaky Solidarity Collective in support of Kanak people, with flags of the Socialist Kanak National Liberation Front (FLNKS) in Paris next to a statue of Vauban, a celebrated 18th century French military engineer who became a Marshal of France. Image: RNZ

Back in Paris, debates resumed last night in National Assembly on a French government-proposed Constitutional change to modify the conditions of eligibility.

Left-wing MPs are supporting New Caledonia’s pro-independence movement in their struggle against a text they believe would seriously affect their political representation.

The constitutional change is regarded as the main cause of New Caledonia’s current unrest.

Meanwhile, New Zealand Foreign Minister Winston Peters, is this week heading a political delegation in several Pacific island countries and territories, including Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu, and Tuvalu.

However, the New Caledonian leg of the tour was officially cancelled and will be rescheduled to another date.

As part of the official travel programme, the delegation was to “meet with government, political and cultural leaders, visit New Zealand-supported development initiatives and participate in community activities”.

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

Burnt van and tyres at one roadblock near Nouméa’ Magenta industrial zone
Burnt van and tyres at one roadblock near Nouméa’ Magenta industrial zone. Image: RNZ/La 1ère TV
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