23 Apr 2020

New Caledonia ministers want French flight stopped

1:18 pm on 23 April 2020

Pro-independence members of New Caledonia's collegial government say they are totally opposed to France sending 180 military personnel to Noumea on Sunday amid the Covid-19 crisis.

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Photo: RNZ Pacific / Walter Zweifel

In a statement, five of the government's six ministers called on France to suspend the flight, taking into account the special circumstances.

They said to minimise the risk of the virus spreading in the community, the government and the French High Commission decided to suspend the repatriation of residents.

In this context, they said, it would be inappropriate to fly in military and civilian personnel that wouldn't be subject to strict sanitary controls of New Caledonia.

The 18 people who had tested positive to the virus all arrived from overseas, and anyone being repatriated will have to be quarantined for three weeks.

Under the terms of the Noumea Accord, public safety as well as defence are under the control of the French state while the health care is in the domain of New Caledonia.

The ministers' statement echoed concerns of the Customary Senate which warned of possible trouble, saying it was opposed to the French plan.

The statement said the passengers would come from the world's fourth most contaminated country where 20,000 people have died.

It said despite promises of them being placed in strict confinement, France should wait at least until it has lifted its restrictions imposed over the Covid-19 outbreak.

Earlier this week, the Senate said the end of the lockdown appeared to have been done in haste and without sufficient preparation.

Most restrictions introduced last month were lifted as of Monday, and it was no longer mandatory to carry an attestation when in public.

The Senate is an advisory body which the government and the French state must consult on matters relating to Kanak identity.

France also planned to send a military aircraft to French Polynesia at the end of the week as part of its Covid-19 response.

New Caledonia Customary Senate

New Caledonia Customary Senate Photo: supplied

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