Sunday, May 26, 2024

Dr James Kierstead: New Caledonia's troubles

White sand beaches. Palm trees waving in a gentle breeze. Seas of turquoise and ultramarine, cobalt and denim stretching out as far as the eye can see.

Such is the view of New Caledonia that you get on travel websites. And it’s not an entirely misleading one. Tensions between the white population (the Caldoches) and the native Kanaks have long simmered under this calmest of surfaces, though.

Last week they suddenly burst into view, with riots erupting across the main island of Grande Terre. Around 1,000 gendarmes have been sent from France to bolster the 1,700 already there. A major mission is underway to take back control of the road between the international airport and the capital, the mayor of which has described it as ‘under siege.’ Some 200 people have been arrested and at least six lie dead, including both Kanaks and police officers.

The riots were sparked by a proposal in the National Assembly in Paris to grant voting rights to anyone who has lived in the territory (part of France, but with the special status as an overseas collectivité) for more than 10 years.

Under the 1998 Nouméa Accord, only people who were residents of New Caledonia that year can vote. This was a key demand of the Kanak independence movement, since voting in independence referendums tends to split along ethnic lines, with Kanaks voting for it and Caldoches voting against it.

Three independence referendums have been held since 1998, with the vote going against independence each time. But separatists are clearly dismayed at the thought of independence retreating further from their grasp.

Dismay and further efforts at political mobilisation may be justified. Violence, however, is not. Since the National Assembly’s measure would change the constitution, it has a long road ahead of it, and may never become law. In the meantime, it is surely reasonable for the 40,000 or so migrants who have made New Caledonia their home since 1998 to seek local representation.

The French government has been clear that order must be restored. When the political process gets going again, though, the French authorities would be well-advised to attend not only to stability, but also to fraternité between Kanak and Caldoche. If they do not, the independence movement will surely grow. And if French influence wanes in the Pacific, there is another, rising power over the horizon who would be more than happy to step in.

Dr James Kierstead is Senior Lecturer in Classics at Victoria University of Wellington.This article was first published HERE


Anonymous said...

I noticed msm here were avoiding the noumea situation like the plague, when they must know full well that they are encouraging a similar situation here, by siding with our activists. As usual for lefties, they are complete hypocrites. This could easily be nz in a few years.

CXH said...

Imagine the outrage if you had to be in NZ for 10 years before voting.

You don't even need to be a citizen in our wonderful paradise.

Anonymous said...

Entirely predictable.

However, many are well aware of this issue from following overseas news.....

The outcome is important.

Barend Vlaardingerbroek said...

A significant number of French men, especially planters, married local women. About 8% of the population self-identify on census forms as 'mixed race' and another 7% as 'Caledonians', between many and most of whom may safely be assumed to be half-castes. The half-caste class tends to be in favour of remaining with France.

Peter van der Stam, Napier said...

I only have been once to NC and loved it.
Last year I went to Madagascar, a former French colony. Which became independent in 1968 or there about.
Great country if you can get into the corruption trough.
The infrastructure ( roads and more ) is a debacle.
NZ motorists are complaining about potholes in the highways.
I have NOT seen any in NC, but Madagascar has them as large as a decent size Spa pool an close to the same dept.
Truckies need 5-7 hours more on a stretch the length of Napier Taupo.
Of course it are the so called educated once, close to the corruption trough who want independence.
Another point to make: NC has a good education system.
Madagascar forget it.