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New Caledonia separatists urge Paris to drop voting reform

todayJune 3, 2024 7

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French President Emmanuel Macron. (Photo by Michele Tantussi/Getty Images)




Separatists in French Pacific territory New Caledonia pressed Paris Monday to drop a planned voting reform that triggered weeks of deadly unrest.

The Socialist Kanak National Liberation Front (FLNKS) — named for the indigenous people who fear being marginalised by the changes — said President Emmanuel Macron should “be clear in his words by stating clearly he will… abandon the constitutional reform”, which has yet to be approved by both houses of parliament.

“Such an announcement would permit… the calming of the current tensions so as to resume discussions on the future of New Caledonia,” the FLNKS’ political committee told Macron in a letter seen by AFP.

The government plans to open up the archipelago’s electoral roll — frozen since 1998 — to more recent arrivals who have lived there for at least 10 years.

Kanaks fear the change will crush their ambitions for independence by leaving them in a permanent minority in the territory of 270,000 people.

Anger over the plans spilled into two weeks of riots and erection of barricades that cut off many neighbourhoods and blocked major roads.

Clashes cost the lives of seven people and left hundreds more injured, as well as causing around one billion euros ($1.1 billion) in damage.

Macron said during a brief visit to New Caledonia on May 23 that he did not want to “pass the reform by force” — while vowing he would not “turn back”.

“On the ground, these remarks regrettably continue not to be understood,” the FLNKS said.

“This incomprehension poses a real difficulty and prevents our activists from hearing the call for calm and easing tensions,” it added.

French authorities insist capital Noumea is back under their control, although barricades endure and pro-independence demonstrators are determined to stay in the streets.

Noumea’s international airport remains closed, while an overnight curfew is in force across New Caledonia until at least June 10.





Written by: Staff Writer

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