6 Apr 2006

New Caledonia police apologize for assaults during clashes - Kanak activist

8:28 pm on 6 April 2006

A Kanak activist says the police have apologised to women and children in New Caledonia who were assaulted by tear gas during clashes between activists and French riot police yesterday.

Police used about 100 tear gas grenades as well as armoured vehicles to break up five barricades on the main road 15 kilometres from the capital, Noumea.

Two leaders of the Kanak Rheebu Nuu committee are still on the run.

Rheebu Nuu says the protest was over the lack of environmental safeguards at the Goro Nickel mine while the New Caledonian government says the action was linked to demands by tribes in the area for royalties .

A meeting was due to take place between Kanak senators and the french high commissioner yesterday evening, whilst a roundtable meeting is scheduled to take place tomorrow.

Kanak activist, Jaques Boengkih, says people want to find a solution to the crisis.

"I think the people here - the government of New Caledonia, the French high commissioner, the Kanak senators - are pushing for a dialogue to start, so the party that would refuse to come to the roundtable would lose the confidence of the population."