14 Jul 2010

New Caledonia is set to adopt two flags

11:16 am on 14 July 2010

New Caledonia is set to adopt two flags in a compromise between pro-independence activists and those who support ongoing French rule in the south Pacific island territory.

Its territorial congress voted yesterday overwhelmingly in favour of the unusual arrangement, under which the former colony will retain the French national flag but also adopt the emblem of the indigenous Kanak independence movement.

French Prime Minister Francois Fillon is set to visit from the 17th to 19th of this month.

He will ceremonially hoist the Kanak flag, which is red, blue and green with a yellow sun and black totem, above the French high commission.

The 230,000-strong island nation is deeply divided between Kanaks, a Melanesian ethnic group, who make up about 44 per cent of the population, and ethnic Europeans, who make up 34 per cent.

In June Mr Fillon chaired follow-up talks on the 1998 Noumea Accord, which provides for steps towards independence for the territory.

It is set to hold a referendum on full autonomy between 2014 and 2019.