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France Has 'Lost The Plot,' Says Kiwi Journalist, Amid Riots In New Caledonia

23.05.2024 07:27

Pacific NGOs condemn France ‘for its poorly hidden agenda of prolonging colonial control over the territory’

France has "lost the plot" and New Caledonia must be liberated, a Kiwi journalist said, amid riots in the French overseas territory over voting reforms which have left at least six people dead.

"Liberation must come for Kanaky/New Caledonia," said David Robie in an interview with Radio New Zealand.

Robie, who was once dubbed a spy by French authorities in New Caledonia, said: "It's really three decades of hard work by a lot of people to build sort of like a future for New Caledonia, which is part of the Pacific rather than part of France."

"From 2020 onwards, basically, France lost the plot" after (Prime Minister) Edouard Philippe was in power, Robie said, adding the three French prime ministers since 2020 did not have a "real affinity for indigenous issues, particularly in the South Pacific."

French President Emmanuel Macron is visiting the Pacific territory, which has witnessed widespread unrest sparked by a constitutional review initiated by his interior and overseas minister, Gerald Darmanin.

If the changes are adopted, French nationals who have lived in the island nation for at least 10 years will be eligible to vote in local elections.

The native population, known as Kanaks, however, are concerned that the changes will dilute their vote.

Paris condemned

Ahead of Macron's trip, the Pacific Regional Non-Government Organizations – an alliance of over two dozen Pacific NGOs -- condemned France on Wednesday "for its poorly hidden agenda of prolonging colonial control over the territory."

Macron declared a state of emergency and deployed additional forces to assist local forces in reinstating order.\

La Tontouta International Airport in the capital Noumea remains closed to all commercial flights until Saturday due to the violence.

The unrest has triggered the evacuation of foreigners, including by Australia and New Zealand.

"France has betrayed the aspirations of the indigenous Kanak people," said Robie, adding "the whole spirit of the Noumea Accord was to lead Kanaky towards self-determination."

The UN lists New Caledonia as a territory to be decolonized.

Decisions by France 'undercut its claim of impartiality'

Nic Maclellan, a journalist and researcher in the Pacific islands, believes Darmanin and French Armed Forces Minister Sebastien Locornu "bear heavy responsibility for the current crisis."

The two men are accompanying Macron during his trip to New Caledonia.

He said trust by the Kanak Socialist National Liberation Front (FLNKS) independence movement "in Macron and his overseas minister has been badly damaged."

They want "impartial mediators," Maclellan said on X.

New Caledonia has held three votes on self-determination.

Some 43.6% of the 81% voter turnout had favored independence in 2018 while two years later, 46.7% favored independence when voter turnout was recorded at 85.7%.

In 2021, the voter turnout fell to 43.8%, of whom 96.5% voted against independence.

According to Maclellan, the FLNKS had called for the "establishment of a mediation mission led by a high-level dignitary in order to guarantee the impartiality of the French State and to open a new phase of discussion."

But Macron's "flying visit…does not match this description"

"Since the botched referendum on self-determination of December 2021, the French government has repeatedly taken decisions that undercut its repeated claim of impartiality between supporters and opponents of independence," he said. -

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