A row has erupted over claims by a New Caledonian anti-independence politician that Paris is working on a plan to give the territory independence /association.
The claim has been repeatedly made by Harold Martin, who is a former president and now candidate in this month's election of a new French National Assembly.
Mr Martin alleges that this Machiavellian plan is being hatched behind the back of New Caledonians and driven by Alain Christnacht, who is a veteran official in dealing with the territory's affairs.
The independence referendum is due by November next year but the wording of the plebiscite question is yet to be determined.
Mr Christnacht, who worked as a special envoy under the previous French president, is also accused of colluding with a pro-independence party to foment unrest to advance his plan.
He has strongly rejected the assertions, describing them as defamatory and likening them to fake news while warning that he might take legal action against Mr Martin.
Mr Christnacht says it is legally impossible and politically inconceivable for New Caledonians to surreptitiously adopt a solution which they don't want.