Seven dead so far – unrest in New Caledonia: Europeans leave the island


Evacuations are currently taking place due to the violent unrest in New Caledonia. The first Europeans were brought from the French overseas territory in the Pacific Ocean this weekend. The spark for the protests is an electoral reform passed in Paris. President Emmanuel Macron has now put a referendum in play.

The situation “remains very difficult for the island’s residents”, especially in the greater area of ​​the capital Nouméa, French Minister for Overseas Territories Marie Guévenoux said. The state of emergency still applies. Seven people have been killed since the violent protests began two weeks ago.

Kanaks protest against electoral law reform
The reform of the electoral law planned by the French government stipulates that French people from the mainland who settle in New Caledonia can participate in the elections earlier than before. The original population of the archipelago, who are called the Kanaken and make up more than 40 percent of the population, fear that this will reduce their influence.

Further evacuations of French citizens are planned for Sunday. “The measures to repatriate foreigners and French tourists will continue,” said the representative of the French central state, the High Commission of New Caledonia. On Saturday, tourists – mainly French – were taken from an airport in Noumea aboard military planes to Australia and New Zealand. From there they should move on to commercial flights. Australia and New Zealand started flying out their citizens on Tuesday.

Airport closure extended
Meanwhile, the closure of La Tontouta International Airport was extended again on Sunday. Commercial flights will not be able to land or take off there until at least June 2, according to the New Caledonian Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Macron, who visited New Caledonia this week, appeared open to a referendum on the controversial electoral reform. He told the daily Le Parisien that he was ready to “hold a referendum at any time.” He remained hopeful that overseas representatives would agree on a “global agreement” that would complement the regulations decided by parliament in Paris. Macron had given supporters and opponents of New Caledonian independence the deadline of the end of June to reach an agreement. The president initially suspended final approval of the reform.

The protests against the planned change in voting rights caused the most serious unrest in the overseas territory since the uprisings of the 1980s. On Saturday night, 35 people in the capital Nouméa had to be taken to safety by sea after a house was set on fire and looting continued.

Roadblocks, burnt out cars
On Sunday, many of the roadblocks set up by protesters remained intact, despite a contingent of 2,700 police and gendarmes trying to clear them overnight. Burnt-out cars could be seen in parts of Nouméa and surrounding towns.

The largest independence movement, FLNKS, called on the population for calm and demanded “to loosen the stranglehold on the main traffic routes”. The main goal at this point is to calm the situation and find “long-term solutions for our country.” At the same time, the FLNKS emphasized that reversing the reform was “a prerequisite for ending the crisis.”

France colonized the New Caledonian archipelago east of Australia in the mid-19th century. Among other things, there are significant nickel deposits on the islands. While they were exploited, the local population was massively oppressed for decades.

Source: Krone


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