30 May 2008

New Caledonia police clash with union demonstrators in Noumea

6:39 am on 30 May 2008

There have been clashes in the centre of the New Caledonian capital, Noumea, between police and supporters of the mainly Kanak USTKE union who claim to be deprived of their rights.

The union had called for a general strike to coincide with an official visit to Noumea by the new junior French minister in charge of overseas territories, Yves Jego.

The French high commissioner had decreed a ban on demonstrations near the

French mission, fearing disruptions as seen when Mr Jego's predecessor was in town last October.

Hundreds of union supporters then gathered near the hospital and armed with sticks and rocks, they engaged the security forces who used tear gas in a bid to disperse the crowd.

One policeman is reported to have been injured and one demonstrator has been arrested.

The USTKE union has said it will keep protesting until Mr Jego's visit

ends on Monday.