French Pacific Territory of New Caledonia in Turmoil as Unrest and Protests Rise

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Officials in the French Pacific territory of New Caledonia have implemented a two-day curfew and prohibited gatherings following violent protests. The curfew has been enforced in the capital city of Noumea and other regions, with the closure of the international airport and the deployment of additional police forces to restore peace.

The unrest began as independence campaigners protested changes to the territory’s voting system, leading to clashes with security forces. The government of New Caledonia has called for calm, revealing that numerous injuries and arrests have occurred among security forces, while no serious civilian injuries have been reported.

Authorities have condemned the destruction of property, noting that numerous businesses and vehicles were damaged during the violence. The protests erupted as French lawmakers in Paris discussed modifications to voting laws, specifically allowing long-term French residents in New Caledonia to participate in provincial elections, much to the concern of local leaders who fear the dilution of Indigenous Kanak voting power.

New Caledonia, a resource-rich territory in the Asia Pacific region, holds strategic importance to French President Emmanuel Macron’s plans to strengthen Paris’s influence. Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin defended the proposed election changes as a democratic imperative but stressed the need for a larger political agreement to resolve tensions.

Macron’s office has announced plans to invite representatives from New Caledonia to talks in Paris to seek a peaceful resolution. Meanwhile, strict measures including a ban on gatherings and the sale of alcohol have been enforced in the Greater Noumea area, with the closure of the international airport and cancellation of commercial flights.

New Caledonia, located thousands of miles away from France, has a diverse population of Melanesian and European descent. The 1998 Noumea Accord aimed to address political conflicts by granting autonomy and limiting voting rights to Indigenous Kanak and pre-1998 migrants in the territory.

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