Curfew imposed in New Caledonia after unrest wracks French territory

Authorities in the French Pacific territory of New Caledonia have announced a two-day curfew and banned gatherings after pro-independence unrest erupted in the capital of Noumea and other areas.

The territory’s top French official, High Commissioner Louis Le Franc, said on Tuesday that 46 security forces had been injured in the unrest and 48 people had been arrested.

No serious civilian injuries were reported, he said in a statement.

Le Franc said Noumea was wracked by “high intensity” disturbances overnight Monday to Tuesday that damaged numerous stores and video surveillance equipment.

Schools were closed on Tuesday, and most business and shops, some damaged in the unrest, remained shut.

French media reported that the unrest started with protests against voting reforms that French lawmakers are debating in Paris which would increase the number of people who could cast ballots in New Caledonia.

In Paris, the French Interior Ministry announced that police reinforcements were being sent to the island.

Le Franc said in an interview with French broadcaster BFM that clashes between police forces and pro-independence protesters and opponents of the constitutional reform occurred overnight in Mont-Dore, a town in the southeast near Nouméa.

Shots were fired at gendarmes “from high caliber weapons and hunting rifles,” he said.

'Extremely tense' situation

Hundreds of cars were set on fire and dozens of businesses and homes could be seen in flames on videos posted on social media.

“The situation remains extremely tense,” Le Franc said. He said internal security troops and civil security forces have been mobilised to intervene.

Gatherings on public roads and in public places have been prohibited in the municipalities of Nouméa, Dumbéa, Mont-Dore and Païta, and all travel on public roads and in public places there was banned from Tuesday afternoon until Wednesday morning, except for health and public emergencies.

Le Franc called for calm and “strict compliance with the measures taken to ensure the safety of the population.”

New Caledonia, colonised by Napoleon’s nephew in the 19th century, is a vast archipelago of about 270,000 people east of Australia that is 10 time zones ahead of Paris and hosts a French military base.

Tensions in the archipelago between native Kanaks seeking independence and descendants of European colonisers who want to remain part of France have been simmering for decades.

The three referendums were organised between 2018 to 2021 and a majority of voters chose to remain part of France instead of backing independence.


Source: TRT