Separatists in New Caledonia Maintain Road Blocks Amid French Security Crackdown

Mon May 20 2024
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NOUMEA, France: Separatists in New Caledonia have refused to abandon road blocks, which have paralyzed the Pacific archipelago and halted commercial air traffic. This defiance comes despite a significant security operation by French forces.

France has sent 1,000 armed police, troops, and national security reinforcements to New Caledonia, following seven nights of violence that have resulted in six deaths and hundreds of injuries. The unrest began on May 13, sparked by French plans to introduce new voting rules that would grant voting rights to tens of thousands of non-indigenous residents.

Officials reported that 600 heavily armed French police and paramilitaries have “neutralized” 76 road blocks along the route between the capital Noumea and La Tontouta International Airport, which remains closed to commercial flights.

Despite these efforts, pro-independence Kanak activists declared they would maintain their road blocks. The Ground Action Coordination Cell (CCAT), some of whose leaders are under house arrest, stated that roadblocks would be closed to all vehicles during nighttime curfews, except for health emergencies and firefighters.

The French high commission in New Caledonia described the security operation as a “success” and announced plans to clear the key route of burned-out vehicles to ensure the delivery of essential supplies. However, some road blocks that were dismantled by French forces were reportedly rebuilt by pro-independence supporters.

Authorities have detained about 230 people, and an estimated 3,200 individuals are either stranded in New Caledonia or unable to return to the archipelago. President Emmanuel Macron has called a meeting of his defense and security council, while Prime Minister Gabriel Attal has met with parliamentary leaders to discuss extending the state of emergency beyond its initial 12 days.

Indigenous Kanaks, who make up about 40 percent of the population, argue that the new voting regulations would dilute their vote. The presidents of four other French overseas territories have called for the withdrawal of the voting reform in an open letter.

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