15new Caledonia Kwgl Facebookjumbo.jpg

Macron Moves to Declare State of Emergency in New Caledonia

President Emmanuel Macron of France convened a crisis meeting on Wednesday and moved to declare a state of emergency in New Caledonia after deadly riots in the semiautonomous French Pacific territory that has long sought independence.

The French authorities have undertaken what they called a “massive” mobilization of security forces since violent protests broke out in New Caledonia this week over a proposed amendment to the French Constitution that would change voting rules in the territory. A vote in France’s Parliament approving the amendment on Tuesday ignited riots overnight that left three people dead.

Mr. Macron met Wednesday with his Defense and National Security Council about the situation, according to a statement from his office. It said he had expressed “strong emotion” over the deaths and gratitude to French security forces. It also said he had requested that a state of emergency be declared for the territory at the afternoon cabinet meeting.

“All violence is intolerable and will be subject to a relentless response” to ensure that order is restored, the statement said, adding that Mr. Macron had welcomed appeals for calm from officials.

France annexed New Caledonia, a smattering of islands with a population of about 270,000, in 1853. The prospect of independence has fueled decades of tensions in the territory.

After armed conflict claimed dozens of lives there in the 1980s — an uprising known as “the Events” — the French government promised change. The territory has held three independence referendums since 2018; all have been voted down.

The proposed constitutional change — which expands French citizens’ eligibility to vote in provincial elections — touched a fresh nerve. Pro-independence activists in New Caledonia expressed fears that it would water down their movement and reflected a more aggressive attempt by the French government to assert its will over the territory.

New Caledonia’s voter rolls have been effectively frozen since 2007, with only those who were listed in 1998 eligible to vote in subsequent elections. The amendment gives voting rights to all French citizens who have lived in the territory for 10 years, effectively increasing the rolls by about 20,000 to 25,000 people, according to Adrian Muckle, a senior lecturer in history at Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand who is an expert on New Caledonia.

Tensions have built up over the past several weeks, with protests turning violent on Monday night. Despite officials’ pleas for calm, the violence has escalated since.

France’s Interior Ministry said on Wednesday that more than 1,800 police officers were already in the territory and that 500 reinforcements would arrive in the next 24 hours. Gérald Darmanin, the interior minister, told the broadcaster RTL that “hundreds” of people had been injured in the unrest.

Several businesses and public buildings, including schools, have been looted or set on fire — with more than 130 people arrested, according to the French High Commission.

It said that a curfew imposed on the capital, Noumea, on Tuesday would remain in place — as will a ban on all public gatherings. The international airport in Noumea has been shut down since Tuesday, with all commercial flights canceled, and the local authorities said that schools would stay closed until further notice.

Source link

Related Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *