Pro-independence politicians in New Caledonia are upset at comments by a visiting former French prime minister Manuel Valls who said he was in favour of the territory remaining French.
Mr Valls, who is in Noumea as the head of a French National Assembly delegation, was speaking at a public debate as the territory readies for an independence referendum later this year.
One politician Louis Mapou said he had the impression that the whole French state machinery was being aligned to back the anti-independence camp.
He also said he wondered whether President Emmanuel Macron would use his upcoming visit to Noumea to unleash a no-campaign.
Another politician Roch Wamytan said he finds that Mr Valls had stepped out of his role and should report back to Paris what he sees on his fact-finding mission instead of advising what should be done.
Mr Wamytan said it was up to the New Caledonian population to decide.
An anti-independence politician Philippe Michel said Mr Valls's remarks add to a situation which already complicated.