Further Unrest in French New Caledonia, Second Police Officer Killed - Latest Global News

Further Unrest in French New Caledonia, Second Police Officer Killed

The French Pacific region of New Caledonia has been rocked by unrest for the third consecutive day after the French National Assembly passed controversial electoral reforms that angered independence supporters.

So far, five people have died in the unrest, including two police officers, and hundreds more have been injured.

France’s Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin said a police officer died on Thursday as a result of an “accidental shot,” broadcaster France Info reported.

The main airport remained closed. The largest hospital said it was primarily treating only emergencies. However, due to road blockages, many patients had problems even reaching the hospital.

Local media published photos and videos of destroyed supermarkets and gas stations that had been looted. Fires set by independence supporters were still reported in stores, shopping centers and parking lots.

Since the unrest began, 206 people have been arrested in the area with a population of 270,000, Darmanin told broadcaster France 2.

“Calm will be restored,” he said, adding that additional police officers would be deployed to New Caledonia and the military would also only be there to provide support.

“There will be no army on the streets of New Caledonia,” he said.

Darmanin also accused Azerbaijan of interference. According to French media reports, Azerbaijan is supporting independence supporters in New Caledonia as part of the Baku Initiative Group.

Protesters in New Caledonia displayed Azerbaijani flags and wore T-shirts with slogans of the Azerbaijani organization. Baku retaliates against France’s support for Armenia in the conflict with Azerbaijan over the Nagorno-Karabakh region.

In response to the violence on the archipelago in the South Pacific, Paris declared a state of emergency for 12 days on Wednesday.

Declaring a state of emergency makes it easier for the authorities, among other things, to impose curfews and ban demonstrations.

The High Commission in New Caledonia said around 5,000 rioters were involved in the unrest in the greater Nouméa area around the capital. Despite curfews, the situation was not yet under control.

The unrest began as France debated a bill that would give thousands of French citizens in the territory the right to vote in provincial elections. The National Assembly in Paris then passed the reform.

New Caledonia’s independence movement fears the change will lead to a weakening of political influence among the indigenous Kanak people.

The Grand Council of Kanaks – Inaat Ne Kanaky – condemned “the unjustified vandalism and violence associated with the use of firearms on public streets” and called for the arrest of those responsible.

At the same time, the Council regretted that the French government had adopted the constitutional reform without taking into account the opposition of the vast majority of the indigenous population.

For Paris, New Caledonia is important militarily and for its nickel.

The area, located 1,200 kilometers east of Australia, gained extensive autonomy through the so-called Nouméa Agreement after being a French colony from 1853 to 1946.

In three independence referendums in 2018, 2020 and 2021, residents voted to remain part of France. The independence movement boycotted the last vote, saying it would not accept the result.

Long queues of concerned citizens formed in front of many shops because food was already being rationed, radio station 1ère Nouvelle-Calédonie reported. Some gas stations also ran out of gas.

The president of the local assembly in New Caledonia’s Southern Province, Sonia Backès, asked Paris for financial support.

“Our territory has been in the grip of unprecedented violence for 72 hours,” Backès, a prominent remain-in-France campaigner, wrote in a letter to Prime Minister Gabriel Attal.

The initial damage to New Caledonia’s economy is estimated by the Chamber of Commerce and Industry at 150 million euros (US$163 million).

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