8 Aug 2011

New Caledonia airport blockade in Mare lifted

3:52 pm on 8 August 2011

The French high commission in New Caledonia says the blockade of the airport in Mare has been lifted - two days after clashes left four people dead.

It says efforts are underway to mediate between the two sides.

Walter Zweifel reports.

"On Saturday locals tried unsuccessfully to dislodge disgruntled demonstrators who have been occupying the island's airport for more than two weeks in protest at domestic air fare hikes. More than a dozen people suffered gunshot wounds, with a total of 23 people being injured. The blockade had been replicated on Lifou and on the Isle of Pines in a bid to get Air Caledonie to lower its fares. One of the young men who died was the nephew of the chairman of Air Caledonie, Nidoish Naisseline. He is also a chief of Mare's Guahma district whose residents had been trying to get access to the airport. An investigation into the shooting has been started but there have been no arrests. The unrest has alarmed Paris and prompted the overseas territories minister, Marie-Luce Penchard, to interrupt her holiday in Guadeloupe to coordinate a response. The French President, Nicolas Sarkozy, is due in Noumea later this month on his only Pacific trip of his presidency."