New Caledonia imposes curfew and public gatherings ban amid violent unrest against electorate amendments in South Pacific French territory News
© WikiMedia (Thomas@RUN)
New Caledonia imposes curfew and public gatherings ban amid violent unrest against electorate amendments in South Pacific French territory

Authorities in the French South Pacific territory of New Caledonia have decided to ban public gatherings and impose a curfew in the capital city of Nouméa following violent protests against a law project amending the electoral system, according to a statement published on Tuesday.

The statement specifies that due to public order problems in Nouméa and neighboring communes, the High Commission of the Republic of New Caledonia decided to impose a curfew beginning on May 14 until May 15 in addition to a ban on all public gatherings in the capital. On top of that, it will be forbidden to carry or transport weapons on New Caledonia’s territory and the sale of alcoholic beverages will not be allowed. Caledonian local authorities also specified that the curfew could be extended as long as necessary and appealed to citizens to stay at home and limit their movements in the coming hours.

These restrictive measures came as a response to the violent protests that the country witnessed between the night of May 13 and May 14 in the capital. Clashes between police forces and protesters occurred and caused considerable damage to infrastructure and police officers. Videos showed protesters looting supermarkets, setting businesses, pharmacies and cars on fire and shooting with large-caliber weapons. The country’s high commissioner condemned the acts of violence as serious attacks on people and property. He added that security forces have been mobilized to deal with the ongoing acts.

The cause of the unrest was a constitutional amendment debated by France’s National Assembly that aims at enlarging the electorate for New Caledonia’s provincial elections planned on December 15. The proposed amendment would modify the 1998 electoral system which only allows natives and residents who arrived in New Caledonia before the 1998 Nouméa Accord and their descendants to vote. The proposed constitutional amendment plans to expand the provincial ballot to residents who have been living on the island for ten years, including French nationals, which was contested by pro-independence supporters. The latter feared that the electoral reform would marginalize the indigenous Kanak people who suffered from discrimination during the colonization.

French Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin asserted that the reform of New Caledonia’s voting system is more of a moral obligation than a political will for individuals who believe in democracy. He added that the proposed amendment will contribute to freeing the electorate for provincial elections by allowing nearly 25,000 people to be included in the voting lists.

However, the head of Caledonian Union Daniel Goa said that the electorate is a fundamental achievement of Caledonian’s struggle for decolonization. Nonetheless, he still urged the country’s political structures and families to remain calm.

The constitutional reform will be voted on Tuesday evening by France’s National Assembly, according to Darmanin. He also said that the president and prime minister will invite Caledonian parties to Paris, France to reach a peaceful agreement.