17 Mar 2023

New Caledonia: one side refusing to meet the other at Paris talks

12:08 pm on 17 March 2023
Victor Tutugoro

Victor Tutugoro Photo: AFP or licensors

New Caledonian pro-independence parties are refusing to meet with the anti-independence side and will only talk directly with the French State.

Pro-independence parties have already said they would attend proposed trilateral talks with the French State in Paris.

But the pro-independence side say that, working solely with the State, they want to develop a solution on the independence question first.

One of the signatories of the 1998 Noumea Accord, Victor Tutugoro, said they would talk with local opposition later.

"There are bilateral requirements which we need to start with the French government in the name of decolonisation.

"Because it is us, Kanaks, who have been colonised and demand independence. When we finally find the balance with the French state we will be able to talk with the local opposition."

The first referendum on independence, in 2018, saw 43 percent vote yes, the second in 2020 resulted in nearly 47 percent voting in favour, while the indigenous Kanaks boycotted the third referendum in 2021, resulting in a resounding no vote.

Tutugoro said the results of the first two referendums show a growing number of citizens from New Caledonia want independence.

He said the independence argument is supported by the Pacific Islands Forum and the Melanesian Spearheaded Group.

"There is a large part of New Caledonia which is growing to be citizens of New Caledonia and that is what we keep saying to the government, the question of independence is unavoidable and it is in the works."

The pro-independence parties will meet with the French state each month for three months and that by July they will have found a way towards a constitutional reform.

Tutugoro said a general framework for the bilateral discussions has now been constructed.

"The general framework is fixed. The method will be that there will be a meeting every month. (Overseas Minister Gerald) Darmanin came in March, we will go to France in April and vice versa every month."

One of the pro-independence parties, Caledonian Union, has proposed September 24 as the date by which an accord be reached with France to end the colonial period.

Ex-Kanak president won't be reinstated

New Caledonia's administrative court has rejected a bid by the former president of the customary Kanak Senate to be reinstated.

Last month, the Senate deposed Hugues Vhemavhe and chose Victor Gogny as his replacement.

The senators acted after Vhemavhe was caught drink-driving and driving without a licence.

He claimed there was no lawful basis to cut his one-year term short, but the court rejected this and said the Senate should resume functioning as soon as possible.

Vhemavhe said while disappointed, he will continue to seek his reinstatement.

The Senate brings together traditional representatives of Kanak councils from 16 areas and has jurisdiction over law proposals concerning the Kanak identity.

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