New Caledonia: state of emergency lifted Monday evening, 480 gendarmes sent as reinforcements

New Caledonia: state of emergency lifted Monday evening, 480 gendarmes sent as reinforcements
New Caledonia: state of emergency lifted Monday evening, 480 gendarmes sent as reinforcements

It is still too early to know whether Emmanuel Macron’s visit to New Caledonia has borne fruit. Still, the Élysée announced, this Sunday evening, in a press release, that the state of emergency activated in mid-May on the island in the grip of riots “will not be extended and will end on Monday at 8 p.m.” , Paris time (5 a.m. Tuesday in Nouméa). Emmanuel Macron “recalls that the lifting of the roadblocks is the necessary condition for the opening of concrete and serious negotiations”, continues the Élysée.

The presidency also announces the arrival “in the coming hours” of “7 additional mobile force units, or 480 mobile gendarmes” who will reinforce the “internal security forces engaged on site”. The violence “cannot claim to be part of legitimate political action”, reiterates the Élysée, calling on elected officials “to re-establish dialogue” to achieve calm.

The Minister Delegate for Overseas Territories, Marie Guévenoux, announced on Saturday that the lifting of the state of emergency could only be done “on the condition that the roadblocks are lifted and calm returns”. This is ultimately another strategy that Emmanuel Macron wanted to adopt, seeing in the lifting of this state of emergency the possibility of “allowing meetings of the different components of the FLNKS (Kanak and Socialist National Liberation Front, the separatists) and the movements on the roadblocks of elected officials or officials able to call for their lifting.

Towards a referendum?

The French territory of the South Pacific has been plunged into chaos since May 13, against a backdrop of the adoption in Paris of a reform providing for the unfreezing of the local electoral body, that is to say its enlargement to people established for at least 10 years. Supporters of independence believe that this thaw risks “minoritizing” the indigenous Kanak people even more.

“I can go to the referendum at any time” on this reform already adopted by the Senate then the National Assembly, argued the head of state, Emmanuel Macron, to Le Parisien. However, he reiterates his desire to see New Caledonian elected officials agree on “a global agreement which would enrich the text already voted by Parliament”. During his visit to the island on Thursday, he gave them until the end of June to find “a global agreement” which “can be submitted to the vote of Caledonians”.

On the ground, the situation “remains very difficult for the inhabitants of the island, particularly in Greater Nouméa,” noted Saturday evening the Minister for Overseas Affairs, Marie Guévenoux, in a press release. Lifting the dams, securing the sites and clearing them will take a lot of time. Nouméa airport will remain closed to commercial flights until June 2.

A call for calm from the FLNKS

The FLNKS, the main pro-independence component, admitted on Saturday that “today, the main objective of the independence movement is to ease tensions and find lasting solutions for our country”. “In this sense, the FLNKS renews its call for calm and also asks to loosen the grip on the main routes of circulation,” adds the movement in a press release.

The separatists are still demanding the withdrawal of the constitutional reform, which caused the worst violence in 40 years and awakened the specter of the “Events” which, from 1984 to 1988, left nearly 80 dead and feared the plunge of New Caledonia in the civil war.

The death toll from the violence rose to seven on Friday, the seventh being a 48-year-old man whose identity has not been communicated, killed in Dumbéa by a police officer. The latter was indicted on Sunday for fatal assault aggravated by the use of a weapon and placed under judicial supervision. He admitted during his police custody “to having fired a single shot, in a reflex gesture to defend himself, without adjusting his shot towards the victim”, in a “context of strong hostility” towards this police officer and a colleague, whose vehicle was stoned by a “group of 40 to 50 people”.



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