Kanaky New Caledonia unrest: FLNKS congress postponed due to splits

FLNKS leaders meeting at Netchaot village
FLNKS leaders meeting at Netchaot village near Koné in Kanaky New Caledonia on Saturday. Image: Wali Wahetra/FB

By Patrick Decloitre, RNZ Pacific correspondent French Pacific desk

The national congress of New Caledonia’s pro-independence platform, the FLNKS, was postponed at the weekend due to major differences between its hard-line component and its more moderate parties.

The FLNKS is the Kanak Socialist National Liberation Front.

It consists of several pro-independence parties, including the Kanak Liberation Party (PALIKA), the Progressist Union in Melanesia (UPM) and the more radical and largest Union Calédonienne (UC).

In recent months, following a perceived widening rift between the moderate and hard-line components of the pro-independence umbrella, UC has revived a so-called “Field Action Coordination Cell” (CCAT).

This has been increasingly active from October 2023 and more recently during the series of actions that erupted into roadblocks, riots, looting and arson.

CCAT mainly consists of radical political parties, trade unions within the pro-independence movement.

The 43rd FLNKS congress, in that context, was regarded as “crucial” over several key points.

Stance over unrest
These include the platform’s stance on the ongoing unrest and which action to take next and a response to a call to lift all remaining roadblocks — but also the pro-independence movement’s fielding of candidates to contest the French snap general election to be held on June 30 and July 7.

There are two seats and constituencies for New Caledonia in the French National Assembly.

Organising the 43rd FLNKS Congress, convened in the small village of Netchaot — near the town of Koné north of the main island — was this year the responsibility of moderate PALIKA.

It started to take place on Saturday, June 15, under heavy security from the organisers, who followed a policy of systematic searches of all participants, including party leaders, local media reported.

However, the UC delegation arrived three hours late, around midday.

A meeting of all component party leaders was held for about one hour, behind closed doors, public broadcaster NC la 1ère reported yesterday.

It was later announced that the congress, including a much-awaited debate on sensitive points, would not go on and had been “postponed”.

CCAT militants waiting
The main bone of contention was the fact that a large group of CCAT militants were being kept waiting in their vehicles on the road to the small village, with the hope of being allowed to take part in the FLNKS congress, with the support of UC.

But hosts and organisers made it clear that this was not acceptable and could be seen as an attempt from the radical movement to take over the whole of FLNKS.

They said they had concerns about the security of the whole event if the CCAT’s numerous militants were allowed in.

On Thursday and Friday last week, ahead of the FLNKS gathering, CCAT had organised its own general assembly in the town of Bourail — on the west coast of the main island — with an estimated 300-plus militants in attendance.

Moderate components of the FLNKS and organisers also made clear on Saturday that if and when the postponed congress resumed at another date, all roadblocks still in place throughout New Caledonia should be lifted.

In a separate media release last week, PALIKA had already called on all blockades in New Caledonia to be removed so that freedom of movement could be restored, especially at a time when voters were being called to the polls later this month as part of the French snap general election.

Candidates deadline
As the deadline for lodging candidates expired on Sunday, it was announced that the FLNKS, as an umbrella group, did not field any.

On its part, UC had separately fielded two candidates, Omaira Naisseline and Emmanuel Tjibaou, one for each of the two constituencies.

Earlier this month, UC president Daniel Goa said he was now aimed at proclaiming New Caledonia’s independence on 24 September 2025.

The date coincides with the anniversary of France’s colonisation of New Caledonia on 24 September 1853.

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

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