16 Nov 2012

New Calodonia move on Kanak houses illegal, says law professor

2:34 pm on 16 November 2012

A law professor in New Caledonia says the Noumea authorities acted outside the law when they used bulldozers to remove traditional Kanak houses from a central city parking lot.

Mathias Chauchat says the decision to remove the structures with police protection at dawn should have been approved by a judge.

A committee called 150 Years After erected the traditional houses in late September for events aimed at marking the festival of citizenship, but at the event's conclusion a Kanak group, calling itself the city tribe, maintained the facility.

Negotiations to take the houses away as promised were unsuccessful and the city, with the backing of the customary Kanak Senate, removed them.

The group had collected 18,000 signatures in support of keeping the site.

Mr Chauchat says the incident is a confluence of the issues that plague New Caledonia.

It also happened amid a continued search for common symbols of New Caledonia's identity as the territory nears a possible referendum on independence.