18 Oct 2021

250 extra French police deployed in New Caledonia

2:09 pm on 18 October 2021

France has flown a batch of 250 police reinforcements to New Caledonia as part of preparations of the independence referendum on December 12th.

The officers, who are fully vaccinated, were received by the French High Commissioner Patrice Faure and General Jean-Marc Descoux, who oversees security for the referendum process.

Sebastien Lecornu

Sebastien Lecornu Photo: AFP or licensors

The French overseas minister Sebastien Lecornu said a total of 2,000 police will be brought in for the plebiscite, marking a substantial strengthening of the force compared to the previous two referendums in 2018 and 2020.

He said in a great democracy there can be no feeling of insecurity.

After the 2018 plebiscite, rioting south of Noumea closed the main road, which police managed to reopen after two days.

Mr Lecornu, who ends a two-week visit to New Caledonia today, has been adamant that the vote will be in December as scheduled.

Pro-independence leaders have called for the referendum to be deferred until the second half of 2022 because of the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the Kanak population.

The anti-independence camp, however, wants the December date to be maintained, saying New Caledonia needs clarity.

In June, Mr Lecornu set the December date as Paris wanted the referendum to be held well before the presidential election due in April.

According to the Noumea Accord, the third and last vote must be held within two years of the previous vote.