29 Apr 2015

New Caledonia row over mine debt relief

3:07 pm on 29 April 2015

There has been a sharp rebuke for New Caledonia's president, Philippe Germain, from his predecessor over alleged concessions for the SMSP mining company, which belongs to the mainly Kanak northern province.

Cynthia Ligeard, who lost the presidency last year, has issued a statement, accusing Mr Germain of lying about the matter.

She says there never was a decision to forgive SMSP a US$26 million debt as claimed by Mr Germain and if the debt is to be struck off, it will be his decision.

Her statement comes amid a war of words within the anti-independence camp, which late last year led to the collapse of her government six months into its five-year term.

The ensuing political impasse ended at the beginning of April when pro-independence politicians helped elect Mr Germain as new president, with both sides saying at the time that no deal was struck.

Mrs Ligeard has suggested that forgiving SMSP's debt is the price Mr Germain's party has been prepared to pay to get the pro-independence camp's support to win the presidency.

Philippe Germain and Cynthia Ligeard

Philippe Germain and Cynthia Ligeard Photo: THEO ROUBY / AFP