Take our user survey and make your voice heard.
Damage caused by rioters in New Caledonia
A road is barricaded by rioters as they protest against plans to allow more people to take part in local elections in the French-ruled territory, which indigenous Kanak protesters reject, in Noumea, New Caledonia, May 15, 2024, in this picture obtained from social media. Lilou Garrido Navarro Kherachi/via REUTERS Image: Reuters/LILOU GARRIDO NAVARRO KHERACHI
world

Three dead in New Caledonia as riots rage after Paris approves voting change

12 Comments
By Kirsty Needham

Three people have been killed in unrest in New Caledonia, an official said, as rioting continued and stores and schools remained shut on Wednesday after France's National Assembly approved changes to voting rules in the Pacific island.

The three dead were young indigenous Kanak, said a spokesman for New Caledonia President Louis Mapou. He said the information was provided by police.

Rioting broke out this week before lawmakers in Paris voted on a bill to allow French residents who have lived in New Caledonia for 10 years to vote in provincial elections - a move some local leaders fear will dilute the Kanak vote.

French President Emmanuel Macron and New Caledonia's president Louis Mapou called for calm and dialogue.

French officials said one person had been found shot dead in an industrial zone, with High Commissioner Louis le Franc saying the shot did not come from police but "from someone who probably was defending himself".

The French government said the change in voting rules, which lawmakers backed by 351 to 153 in favour, was needed so elections would be democratic in the country's territory.

Macron has offered to hold dialogue between New Caledonia's pro- and anti-independence camps before a special congress of the two houses of parliament rubber-stamps the bill.

The major pro-independence political group, Front de Liberation Nationale Kanak et Socialiste (FLNKS), said in a statement on Wednesday it would accept Macron's offer of dialogue and was willing to work toward an agreement "that would allow New Caledonia to follow its path toward emancipation".

On Wednesday morning, Lilou Garrido Navarro Kherachi, 19, drove around protestor blockades in Noumea and saw burning cars and buildings, including a ruined veterinary clinic where the neighbors had evacuated the animals before the fire spread.

Police were outnumbered by protestors, she told Reuters.

"The real problem is the youngsters who trash, burn and loot. We didn't see any police deployed on site," she said.

French retailer Decathlon said in a statement its New Caledonia store had been vandalised, looted and burnt overnight, after 10 years of trading.

The New Caledonia government said in a statement schools would stay closed, after some were damaged.

Macron condemned the violence and called for calm in a letter addressed to officials in New Caledonia that was published on the Facebook account of one lawmaker. The FLNKS also condemned the violence and called for protestors to lift road blocks.

"Residents are terrorised, armed and organising themselves to make the rounds tonight and protect their homes," Garrido Navarro Kherachi said, adding gunfire could be heard in her neighbourhood.

Most residents were staying indoors. With stores closed breastfeeding mothers were organising to share milk with mothers who have none left to feed their babies, she said.

Garrido Navarro Kherachi moved to New Caledonia when she was eight years old, and has never been back to France. Although eligible to vote under the new rules, she says she won't "out of respect for the Kanak people".

"That would give me the right to vote but I don't feel I know enough about the history of Caledonia and the struggle of the Kanak people to allow me to vote," she said.

She said she is fearful for the future of the island nation, which she called "a wonderful country where all ethnic groups live together".

"I don't know if the situation will improve."

© Thomson Reuters 2024.

©2024 GPlusMedia Inc.


12 Comments
Login to comment

FreeNewCaledonia!!!
-10 ( +2 / -12 )

...a bill to allow French residents who have lived in New Caledonia for 10 years to vote in provincial elections - a move some local leaders fear will dilute the Kanak vote.

Jesus, how many French residents live there? Are there enough to cause deadly violence?

2 ( +2 / -0 )

What this fails to mention is that the pacific islands are home to many East Asians and South Asians who have limited rights under the pro native governments.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

The French government said the change in voting rules, which lawmakers backed by 351 to 153 in favour, was needed so elections would be democratic in the country's territory.

What are these changes? This article skips right past the detail of these changes and why there is rioting.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

The Herald's article on the subject gets down to it in paragraph 4. Why has this article glossed over it altogether?

https://www.smh.com.au/world/oceania/three-dead-in-new-caledonia-as-riots-rage-after-paris-approves-voting-change-20240515-p5jdyk.html

3 ( +3 / -0 )

China!

https://asia.nikkei.com/Spotlight/Asia-Insight/China-looms-over-New-Caledonia-vote-on-independence-from-France

1 ( +1 / -0 )

What are these changes?

Insignificant. The bill allows for french citizens who have lived in NC for over 10 years to vote. It's just a formality, they can obtain rights to vote anyway.

On the other hand, riots broke out in Sri Lanka, Djibouti, Pakistan, Ecuador, Solomon Islands....after China entered the fray.

Tahiti was also near riot, but was quelled by France back when French people didn't care.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

@factchecker

Perhaps you should read the article more carefully. The article you linked is the same than the one you are responding to, just an updated version about arrested people. The 10 years change is already here :

Kirsty Needham

Updated May 15, 2024 — 8.24pmfirst published at 7.29pm

Rioting broke out this week before lawmakers in Paris voted on a bill to allow French residents who have lived in New Caledonia for 10 years to vote in provincial elections - a move some local leaders fear will dilute the Kanak vote.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

It doesn't seem like independence forces have ever won an referendum and there have been many.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

New Caledonia, a French colony? This is anachronism indeed, the last remnant of jungle-law colonialism, when other colonies by Western powers seem to have been all liberated.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

What a coincidence. I started watching a French crime procedural last week, "Pacific Criminal" in English, "Pacifique Sud" in French, shot in New Caledonia. They spend a lot of time showing the Kanak people, and the special relationship the French government has with the Kanak tribes. It is always fun to watch how different the police forces of other nations are from what I am used to. (For instance French police officers demonstrate very lax security with their pistols.) The photography of New Caledonia is stunningly beautiful. It is a bit hard to see how a place with only a quarter million people can have so much strife. Perhaps because of the hugely valuable nickel ore on the islands?

Some of the largest nickel deposits in the world are found on New Caledonia. If the Kanak leaders can claim sovereignty over the nickel, they could make themselves immensely rich. Currently the wealth from the ore does not appear to benefit the indigenous people. Not sure if that would improve under the system of government demanded by some of the Kanak. Perhaps if the French central government found a way to ensure that the islanders benefitted from the natural wealth of the islands, there would be less political strife. Who would want to see billions and billions of francs leave the island in the form of nickel ore, while the Kanak live in primitive conditions? Certainly not the Kanak.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

On the subject of independence referendums; I think most Kanak realize that without the French to protect them, another less beneficent national power would immediately invade and take them over. It may go against the principles of French corporate governance, but if the wealth of the islands could be shared somehow with the Kanak, there might be far less strife.

Seems to me that a small fraction of the nickel ore's value would pay for state of the art hospitals and schools for everyone on the islands. A system that ensured that Kanak could go to university anywhere in the world with government aid would be popular, perhaps. The total number of Kanak is only slightly more than 110,000, and not all of them are of school age.

On the face of it the Kanak insisting that only old time residents can vote seems undemocratic, but I think I can see where they are coming from. Why should they live in poverty, when so much wealth is flowing out of the islands?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Login to leave a comment

Facebook users

Use your Facebook account to login or register with JapanToday. By doing so, you will also receive an email inviting you to receive our news alerts.

Facebook Connect

Login with your JapanToday account

User registration

Articles, Offers & Useful Resources

A mix of what's trending on our other sites