Unrest in New Caledonia: France Imposes Emergency Powers Amidst Political Turmoil

Unrest in New Caledonia: France Imposes Emergency Powers Amidst Political Turmoil

Violence continued unabated in New Caledonia for the third consecutive day on Thursday, following France’s declaration of a state of emergency in the French Pacific territory. This move has bolstered security forces’ authority to quell the unrest in the archipelago, which has long sought independence.

According to French authorities in New Caledonia and the interior ministry in Paris, five people, including two police officers, lost their lives in the aftermath of protests earlier this week over voting reforms proposed by President Emmanuel Macron’s administration.

High Commissioner Louis Le Franc, the top French official in the territory, reported that at least 60 members of the security forces were injured and 214 individuals were arrested on Thursday alone, due to clashes with law enforcement, incidents of arson, and instances of looting.

French Prime Minister Gabriel Attal, speaking after a meeting at the Elysee presidential palace in Paris, stated, “Everything is being done to restore order and calm that Caledonians deserve.” He noted the deployment of 1,700 security forces troops to assist the police, with an additional 1,000 en route, emphasizing that the situation “remains very tense, with looting, riots, arson and attacks, which are unbearable and unspeakable.”

French Interior and Overseas Territories Minister Gerald Darmanin confirmed on Thursday that two members of the island’s Indigenous Kanak community were among the five fatalities. He pledged that France “will regain total control” and disclosed that 10 individuals associated with the pro-independence movement, The Field Acton Coordination Unit, were under house arrest. Darmanin described the movement as “a small group which calls itself pro-independence, but instead commits looting, murder and violence.”

Leaders of a Kanak Workers Union in Paris have made a plea for calm and expressed deep sorrow over the deaths in their distant homeland.

“We wish to see the French government make a strong political statement rather than send troops,” said union leader Rock Haocas to reporters on Thursday. “Starting a conversation would be a strong political statement.”

In New Caledonia, The National Council of Chiefs of the Indigenous Kanak people denounced “all acts of vandalism and gun violence,” while refuting allegations that the pro-independence movement was involved in the deadly violence.

Grand Chief Hippolyte Sinewami-Htamumu has offered full support for the pro-independence group, which has rallied over a hundred thousand people “of all ages and from all backgrounds” in peaceful protests in recent months in the capital, Nouméa, and across the island.

“This is not a ‘terrorist group’ or ‘mafia group,’ as certain political leaders want us to believe,” he stated in a release on Thursday.

The state of emergency will last for at least 12 days, with French military forces being deployed to protect ports and airports and to assist police forces. The curfew has been extended until Friday morning, as confirmed by High Commissioner Le Franc.

The territory’s political factions have also urged for calm from both sides — those advocating for independence and those supporting continued ties with France.

France last imposed emergency powers on one of its overseas territories in 1985, also in New Caledonia. These measures empower French and local authorities in the archipelago to address unrest, including house detentions for those seen as a threat to public order, conducting searches, seizing weapons, and restricting movement, with potential jail time for violators.

The Pacific island, located east of Australia and home to around 270,000 people, is renowned for its UNESCO World Heritage atolls and reefs. Decades-long tensions have existed between the Indigenous Kanaks, who seek independence, and descendants of colonizers who wish for it to remain part of France.

New Caledonia’s population of European descent distinguishes between descendants of colonizers and those of the many prisoners forcibly sent to the territory, which has historically served as France’s penal colony and now houses a French military base.

The recent unrest erupted as the French legislature in Paris debated amending the French constitution regarding voter lists in New Caledonia. The National Assembly approved a bill on Wednesday allowing residents who have lived in New Caledonia for 10 years to vote in provincial elections, among other changes.

Critics argue that this change will favor pro-France politicians and further marginalize the Kanaks, who have faced strict segregation policies and discrimination in the past.

President Macron announced plans on Wednesday to convene the Congress by the end of June, a joint session of lawmakers from both houses of the French parliament, to amend the constitution and enact the bill into law due to a lack of meaningful dialogue and consensus among local representatives.

New Caledonia became French in 1853 under Emperor Napoleon III, Napoleon’s nephew and heir. Following World War II, it became an overseas territory, with French citizenship granted to all Kanaks in 1957.

A peace agreement between rival factions was reached in 1988. A decade later, France pledged to grant New Caledonia political power and extensive autonomy, along with holding up to three successive referendums on the island’s future.

Referendums were held between 2018 and 2021, with a majority of voters choosing to retain New Caledonia as part of France instead of opting for independence.

The pro-independence Kanak people rejected the results of the last referendum in 2021, which they boycotted due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Pooja Chauhan: Your Source for Entertainment and Box Office News Pooja Chauhan is a passionate writer and dedicated journalist specializing in delivering the latest updates and insights from the world of entertainment and box office. With a keen eye for detail and a deep love for cinema, Pooja brings her readers accurate and engaging coverage of all things related to movies, celebrities, and the dynamic world of showbiz. Her commitment to keeping her audience well-informed and entertained makes her a valuable voice in the realm of entertainment journalism. When she's not busy uncovering the latest scoops, Pooja enjoys exploring classic films and indulging in creative writing." Contact us: admin@bollywoodfever.co.in

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