Breaking News

New Caledonia

State of Emergency in Riot-Hit New Caledonia to Be Lifted for Political Dialogue

Paris, May 27, 2024, The Europe Today: The state of emergency in New Caledonia, imposed due to recent riots, will be lifted on Monday evening at 8 p.m. in Paris, which corresponds to 5 a.m. Tuesday in the French overseas territory, the French presidency announced. This decision aims to facilitate political dialogue with local leaders.

“The President has decided for the time being not to extend the state of emergency” beyond its legal deadline of 12 days, to allow for meetings with the pro-independence FLNKS party, the Elysee Palace said in a statement on Sunday. The statement also noted that 480 gendarmes are being sent to the Pacific territory as reinforcements.

Background and Unrest
New Caledonia, located approximately 17,000 kilometers (10,600 miles) from mainland France, has been under French rule since 1853. However, many indigenous Kanaks resent French control and seek greater autonomy or full independence. Recent unrest was triggered by Paris’s proposal to extend voting rights to thousands of non-indigenous, long-term residents, a move strongly opposed by the Kanak community, who argue it would dilute their electoral influence.

Following the unrest, Paris declared a state of emergency on May 15. The emergency measures enhanced police powers, allowing for house detention of individuals deemed threats to public order, expanded search and seizure capabilities, and restricted movements, with violators facing potential jail time. Additionally, hundreds of police and military reinforcements were deployed to restore order.

Despite these measures, police have struggled to maintain control in certain districts of the capital, Noumea. Authorities have announced that the city’s international airport will remain closed to commercial flights until at least June 2.

President Macron’s Intervention
In an urgent bid to defuse the crisis, French President Emmanuel Macron flew to the Pacific archipelago on Thursday. During his visit, he assured that the proposed voting reforms “will not be forced through” and emphasized that “violence should never be allowed to take root.” He called for the immediate removal of all roadblocks.

The FLNKS party reiterated its demand for the withdrawal of the voting reforms after meeting with Macron. The president expressed his willingness to consider holding a referendum on the contentious changes.

As New Caledonia moves towards political dialogue, the lifting of the state of emergency marks a critical step in addressing the underlying tensions and seeking a peaceful resolution to the crisis.