28 Jul 2003

New Caledonia population census postponed after Chirac criticism

5:05 pm on 28 July 2003

A population census that was set to begin in New Caledonia this week has been put off because of French president Jacques Chirac's criticism over the inclusion of questions on ethnic origin.

The official in charge of the census, Gabriel Gamblin, says that in view of an error in judicial process, the French national institute for statistics and economic studies, decided to postpone the census.

He says New Caledonia's government had not been consulted on the modalities of the census.

Mr Chirac had labelled references to ethnic origin in a census questionnaire as "irresponsible and illegal".

He said the idea of including references to ethnic origin in an official document is outrageous.

President Chirac says there's only one reply to such a question and that is that the people are all French and there are French people of all ethnic origins.

Meanwhile, a source close to the research effort says the question of ethnicity had been included in order to better distribute resources between Noumea and the provinces.

A new census could be held in June of July 2004.