After the Referendum in Paris, Protests in New Caledonia Resulted in three Deaths

Three individuals have tragically lost their lives in the French Pacific territory of New Caledonia amidst ongoing riots sparked by contentious constitutional changes.

Violence erupted on Monday night as protests escalated over proposals to grant voting rights to French residents who have lived in the territory for 10 years.

The changes were approved by the French parliament on Wednesday morning.

Concerns have been raised by leaders of the indigenous Kanak people, who constitute approximately 40% of the population, regarding the potential impact of these changes on their political influence.

France’s President Emmanuel Macron has announced a state of emergency in the territory, emphasising that any further violence will be met with a firm and decisive reaction.

There were reports of cars being set on fire, buildings being set ablaze, and police stations being attacked.

The group of islands, situated between Australia and Fiji, has been under French control since the 19th century. This is the most severe unrest it has experienced since the 1980s.

Earlier, Mr Macron had to cancel a scheduled trip to Normandy in order to preside over an urgent meeting on defence and national security, as stated by his office.

The violence erupted following the proposal of changes by lawmakers in Paris, who argued that they were justified through democratic means.

There were intense protests in the capital Nouméa on Monday night, with reports of multiple clashes between rioters and civil defence groups.

French authorities have recently implemented a night-time curfew and put a stop to public gatherings.

Nevertheless, authorities reported on Wednesday that the “serious disturbances” were still ongoing, and there was an attempted prison break-out.

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“If we continue on this path, the consequences will be disastrous,” stated Louis Le Franc, a representative of the central government, during a recent discussion.

“I have concerns about the situation in New Caledonia. Gloomy times are on the horizon.

According to the French interior minister, a significant number of individuals, including police officers, sustained injuries during the period of unrest.

The streets in the capital are filled with the remnants of charred vehicles and structures

After the vote, Mr. Macron sent a letter to representatives from New Caledonia, urging them to denounce the violence and promote peace.

The main pro-independence party, the Kanak and Socialist National Liberation Front (FLNKS), has expressed its support for the call, urging protesters to end their roadblocks.

According to local authorities, over 130 individuals have been arrested since the start of the recent unrest.

The population of New Caledonia is approximately 300,000, with the indigenous Kanak people accounting for around 40% or 112,000 individuals.

As per the 1998 Nouméa Accord, France made a commitment to grant the territory greater political autonomy and restrict voting in provincial and assembly elections exclusively to residents at that time.

Since then, over 40,000 French citizens have relocated to New Caledonia.

The agreement permitted three referendums to be held regarding the future of the country. Independence was consistently denied in every case.

The initial two surveys indicated narrow majorities in favour of remaining part of France. In December 2021, pro-independence parties boycotted the third event as the authorities declined to postpone the vote amidst the Covid epidemic.

“Tonight, France is even more breathtaking as New Caledonia has chosen to remain a part of it,” Mr. Macron expressed following the latest vote in 2021.

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New Caledonia benefits from a significant level of autonomy, although it relies heavily on France for areas such as defence and education. Additionally, it continues to receive substantial subsidies from Paris.

Unrest breaks out in New Caledonia prior to voting reforms

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