23 May 2024

French President Emmanuel Macron lands in Nouméa amid unrest

11:34 am on 23 May 2024
(FILES) France's President Emmanuel Macron delivers a speech at the Place des Cocotiers in Noumea on July 26, 2023. A government spokeswoman announced May 21, 2024, that France's President Macron will visit riot-hit New Caledonia as looting, arson and deadly gunfire have enveloped the French Pacific territory eight days ago.

Emmanuel Macron speaking in Nouméa on 26 July 2023 (file picture). Photo: AFP

French president Emmanuel Macron has landed in Nouméa.

The French Ambassador to the Pacific Véronique Roger-Lacan was on the flight.

"The unrest in New Caledonia is absolutely unacceptable," Roger-Lacan told RNZ Pacific in an interview on 22 May at 12.20am (NZT).

She had just arrived back from Caracas where she represented France at this week's UN seminar on decolonisation.

"As far as the French state is concerned, our door is open, we are welcoming everyone for dialogue, in Paris or in Nouméa. It's up to everyone to join further dialogue," Roger-Lacan said.

Roger-Lacan said the unrest had been provoked by very specific parts of the Caledonia establishment.

She said she made a plea for dialogue at the United Nations decolonisation seminar in light of the deadly protests in New Caledonia.

"Well, what I want to say is that the Nouméa agreement has enabled everyone in New Caledonia to have a representation in the French national assembly and in the Senate," Roger-Lacan said.

"And it is up to all the parties, including the independentists, who have some representatives in the National Assembly and in the Senate, to use their political power to convince everyone in the National Assembly and in the parliament.

"If they don't manage, it is [an] amazingly unacceptable way of voicing their concerns through violence."

While the French government and anti-independence leaders maintain protest organisers are to blame for the violence, pro-independence parties say they have been holding peaceful protests for months.

They say violence was born from socio-economic disparities and France turning a deaf ear to the territorial government's call for a controversial proposed amendment to be scrapped.

Roger-Lacan said while 'everyone' was saying this unrest was called for because they were not listened to by the French state, France stands ready for dialogue.

She said just because one group failed to 'use their political power to convince the assembly and the senate', it did not justify deadly protests.

The delegation

A long-time journalist reporting on Pacific issues says the composition of the French President's delegation to New Caledonia will anger pro-independence leaders.

Islands Business correspondent Nic Maclellan said Macron would be accompanied by the current overseas minister Gérald Darmanin and armed forces minister Sébastien Lecornu.

"They will no doubt be welcomed by supporters of the French republic, anti-independence politicians who want to stay with France but Lecornu and Darmanin have been responsible for key decisions taken over the last three or four years that have lead to this current crisis," Maclellan said.

President Macron has said the main objective of the trip is to resume political talks with all stakeholders and find a political solution to the crisis.

United Nations

This year Véronique Roger-Lacan represented France at the table at a seminar which took place in the lead up to the Committee in New York in June.

The right to self determination is a constitutional principle in the French constitution as much as it is in the UN Charter, Roger-Lacan explained.

The meeting she has just been at in Caracas, "prepares a draft, UN General Assembly resolution, that is being examined in the committee, which is called the C 24," she said.

Roger-Lacan was appointed to the role of French ambassador to the Pacific in July last year.

Various groups have been calling for the United Nations to head a delegation to New Caledonia to observe the current situation.

Roger-Lacan said the New Caledonia coalition government representative and the FLNKS representative both called for a UN mission at the meeting.

"Then there were five representatives of the loyalists and they all made the case of the fact that a third referenda had in compliance with the two UN General Assembly resolutions determined the future status of New Caledonia," she said.

As the representative of the French state, she made the case that France has always been the only administrative power to sit in the C24, "and to negotiate and cooperate," she said.

"The United States, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom never did that," Roger-Lacan said.

She also welcomed the UN, "whenever they want to visit", she said.

"That's the plea that I made on behalf of the French government, a plea for dialogue."