19 Apr 2004

New Caledonia's largest party rules out referendum on independence

7:16 am on 19 April 2004

New Caledonia's largest party has ruled out organising a referendum on independence when the Noumea Accord on greater autonomy expires in 2019.

The Accord was signed in 1998 by the anti independence RPCR, the pro-independence FLNKS and the French state and provides for increased autonomy and a collegial government system ahead of the referendum to be held no earlier than 2014.

But launching the campaign for the May provincial elections, the RPCR leader, Jacques Lafleur, has told an estimated 10 thousand followers in La Foa that independence has become a word-- a dream.

Mr Lafleur says the party will prepare for the accord's expiry, at which time no-one will want to hold an independence referendum and nobody will want the return of bloodshed.

His comment is alluding to the unrest and violence of the 1980's which led to the 1988 Matignon accords and the re-inscription of New Caledonia on the UN list of territories to be de-colonised.

The party meeting put Mr Lafleur at the top of its list of candidates for the May the 9th poll and renamed itself "Rassemblement."