France president declares state of emergency in New Caledonia amid violent protests News
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France president declares state of emergency in New Caledonia amid violent protests

French President Emmanuel Macron declared a state of emergency in New Caledonia Friday for the violent protests breakout. The protests have resulted in almost 200 arrests, dozens of injuries and at least four deaths since Wednesday.

Protestors have been setting businesses and cars on fire, and shooting rifles to cause widespread panic.  Reuters reports that “three young Kanak have died in the riots, and a 22-year-old police official died of a gunshot wound.” New Caledonia’s High Commissioner, Louis le Franc condemned the acts of violence as serious attacks on people and property. He added that security forces have been mobilised to deal with the ongoing acts.

Video footage from ‘FRANCE 24’, a French publicly-funded international news network based in Paris, shows insight into the chaos.  Protestors stole police cars and caused wide-scale looting of supermarkets, often using improvised weapons to gain access to the buildings. The looting resulted in food and medicine shortages in New Caledonia. 

The New Caledonian government notified people on Saturday through Facebook that even though roadblocks advanced the difficulty, the government is making every effort to ensure medical and food supplies are given to the people. 

New Caledonia, a French territory in the South Pacific about 1,500 km east of Australia, has been under French control since the 1850s. A proposed constitutional amendment by France’s National Assembly on Tuesday aims to allow for French residents who have lived in New Caledonia for 10 years to vote in local elections. Currently, the 1998 electoral system restricts voting rights to natives and those who moved to New Caledonia before the 1998 Nouméa Accord, along with their descendants. Pro-independence supporters are contesting this change because they fear it would marginalise the indigenous Kanak people, who have already suffered from discrimination during colonisation.

As part of this state of emergency, the High Commissioner published a press release extending the ban on public gatherings and extending the curfew throughout the territory of New Caledonia. Additionally, there is a territory-wide ban on carrying weapons and selling alcohol. The High Commissioner calls on everyone’s responsibility for strict compliance with this curfew. 

On Friday, further military reinforcement from France arrived in New Caledonia to assist with law enforcement efforts. The High Commissioner noted in a further press release that since Monday, the state of emergency has become a calmer and more peaceful situation in Nouméa with a hundred more French police, despite the fires at a school and two businesses, and the death of a gendarmerie. 

Le Monde reports that the radical “CCAT cell,” part of the pro-independence FLNKS group, claimed to have instructed its members to exercise restraint. In a Friday press release, the cell reiterated that it had “mobilized the country for a noble cause” – independence – and held “the State responsible for the loss of human life, the atrocities and the destruction of the country.”