French police raid pro-independence Kanak party HQ, arrest eight in crackdown

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French police deployed at the Nouméa headquarters of the Caledonian Union in today's crackdown
French police deployed at the Nouméa headquarters of the Caledonian Union in today's crackdown . . . UC is the major party in the pro-independence FLNKS collective. Image: LNC

Asia Pacific Report

French police and gendarmes force were deployed around the political headquarters of the pro-independence Caledonian Union in Kanaky New Caledonia’s Nouméa suburb of Magenta in a crackdown today.

The public prosecutor confirmed that eight protesters had been arrested, including the leader of the CCAT action groups, Christian Téin, as suspects in a “criminal conspiracy” investigation, local media report.

Prosecutor Yves Dupas said that the Prosecutor’s Office “intends to conduct this phase of the investigation with all the necessary objectivity and impartiality”.

The arrests were made in Nouméa and in the nearby township of Mont-Dore.

This was part of the investigation opened by the prosecution on May 17 — for days after the rioting and start of unrest in New Caledonia.

The Caledonian Union (UC) is the largest partner in the pro-independence umbrella group FLNKS (Kanak and Social National Liberation Front).

Presidential letter
Meanwhile, RNZ Pacific reports that French President Emmanuel Macron had written to the people of New Caledonia, confirming that he would not convene the Congress (both houses of Parliament) meeting needed to ratify the controversial constitutional electoral amendments.

Local media reports said Macron was also waiting for the “firm and definitive lifting” of all the roadblocks and unreserved condemnation of the violence — and that those who had encouraged unrest would have to answer for their action.

Macron had previously confirmed he had suspended but not withdrawn New Caledonia’s controversial constitutional amendment.

The changes would allow more people to vote with critics fearing it would weaken the indigenous Kanak voice.

In this letter, the President said France remained committed to the reconstruction of the Pacific territory, and called on New Caledonians “not to give in to pressure and disarray but to stand up to rebuild”.

The need for a return to dialogue was mentioned several times.

He wrote that this dialogue should make it possible to define a common “project of society for all New Caledonian citizens”, while respecting their history, their own identity and their aspirations.

This project, based on trust, would recognise the dignity of each person, justice and equality, and would need to provide a future for New Caledonia’s younger generations.

Macron’s letter ended with a handwritten paragraph which read: “I am confident in our ability to find together the path of respect, of shared ambition, of the future.”

‘Financial troubles’
Nicolas Metzdorf, a rightwing candidate for the 2024 snap general election, said he had contacted the President following this letter to tell him that it was “unsuitable given the situation in New Caledonia”.

New Caledonia’s local government Finance Minister Christopher Gygès said the territory was trying to get emergency money from France due to financial troubles.

One of the factors is believed to be the ongoing civil unrest that broke out on May 13, which prevented most of the public sector employees from being able to pay their social contributions.

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

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