14 Jun 2023

Politician tells UN New Caledonia is not a colony

1:41 pm on 14 June 2023
French, right, and Kanak flags.

French, right, and Kanak flags. Photo: AFP/Clotilde Richalet

A New Caledonian politician has told the United Nations the territory is no longer a colony and should be withdrawn from the UN's decolonisation list.

The anti-independence Congress member and vice-president of the Southern Province, Gil Brial, told the UN in New York he is a descendant of French people deported to New Caledonia 160 years ago, who have been blended with others, including the indigenous Kanaks.

He said the only colonisation left today is the colonisation of the minds of young people by a few separatist leaders who mix racism, hatred and threat.

Brial said those people try to obtain through fear what was not obtained at the ballot box.

In three referendums between 2018 and 2021, full sovereignty was rejected.

However, the pro-independence parties refuse to recognise the result of the third vote, in December 2021, as the legitimate outcome of the decolonisation process due to many Kanak people boycotting it over the impact covid-19 had.

Meanwhile, a group of French citizens said it would go to court in France to secure voting rights in provincial elections for about 40,000 people excluded from the current roll.

The Association of French Citizens of New Caledonia said the restrictions imposed with the 1998 Noumea Accord must be lifted because full sovereignty was rejected in the three referendums.

To take part in provincial elections, voters have to be established in New Caledonia before 1998.

The head of the Association, Stephane Quinet, has told local media it wants French citizens to be allowed to vote after six months of residence.

He said its members want to pursue a legal avenue to obtain their rights, and not withhold tax payments to make their point.

Quinet said a petition for change has been signed by more than 20,000 people and sent to the French interior minister.