New Caledonia ‘on fire’

    France sends more police, seeks talks, to quell New Caledonia riots. Despite a curfew, violence continued on Tuesday evening on the island.

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    France sent extra police squadrons to quell riots on the Pacific island of New Caledonia on Tuesday but also opened the door to a negotiated settlement with pro- and anti-independence groups.

    Overnight, rioters burnt cars, dozens of businesses, clashed with police and set up barricades to protest against plans to allow more people to take part in local elections in the French-ruled territory, which indigenous Kanak protesters reject.

    The proposed changes, which the National Assembly in Paris will vote on later on Tuesday, would allow French residents who have lived in New Caledonia for 10 years to vote in provincial elections – a move local leaders fear will dilute the Kanak vote but the government says is needed so elections are democratic.

    “The streets were on fire, they were rioting in the streets, quite a frightening experience actually,” New Zealand tourist Mike Lightfoot told TVNZ television.

    The island’s capital Noumea was covered by a cloud of black smoke, NC La 1ere said, adding that a local sport facility had been set ablaze. It also reported a riot in a prison.

    Colonialist France stealing the natural resources

    One of five island territories spanning the Indo-Pacific held by France, New Caledonia is the word’s third-largest nickel producer and is the centrepiece of French President Emmanuel Macron’s plan to increase Paris’s influence in the Pacific.

    Prime Minister Gabriel Attal said the vote should proceed in the afternoon as planned, but confirmed that Macron would not rush into convening a special congress of the two houses of parliament required to rubber-stamp the bill.

    Instead, he would invite representatives of the territory’s population – both pro- and anti-independence – to Paris for talks on the future status of New Caledonia, after decades of tensions over France’s role.

    “It’s through talking, and only through talking, that we can find a solution,” Attal told lawmakers. “All we want is to find an overall political agreement, with those in favour of and against independence.”

    He did not spell out what such a deal could cover.


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