West Papuan ‘independence day’ – nationalist thugs attack rally in Surabaya

Report by Dr David Robie – Café Pacific.

A bloodied Papuan student attacked during yesterday’s December 1 Free West Papua rally
in Surabaya, Indonesia. Image: Human rights sources

From the Pacific Media Centre

By Tony Firman of Tirto in Surabaya

A protest action by the Papuan Student Alliance (AMP) in Indonesia’s East Java provincial capital of Surabaya yesterday demanding self-determination for West Papua has been attacked by a group of ormas (social or mass organisations).

Police later raided Papuan student dormitories in the evening and detained 233 students in a day of human rights violations as Indonesian authorities cracked down on demonstrations marking December 1 – “independence day”, according to protesters.

The group, who came from a number of different ormas, including the Community Forum for Sons and Daughters of the Police and Armed Forces (FKPPI), the Association of Sons and Daughters of Army Families (Hipakad) and the Pancasila Youth (PP), were calling for the Papuan student demonstration to be forcibly broken up.

READ MORE: Surabaya counterprotest, 300 arrested in West Papua flag demonstrations

“This city is a city of [national] heroes. Please leave, the [state ideology of] Pancasila is non-negotiable, the NKRI [Unitary State of the Republic of Indonesia] is non-negotiable”, shouted one of the speakers from the PP.

At 8.33am, a number of PP members on the eastern side of Jl. Pemuda began attacking the AMP by throwing rocks and beating them with clubs. Police quickly moved in to block the PP members then dragged them back.

The AMP protesters had began gathering at the Submarine Monument at 6am before moving off to the Grahadi building where the East Java governor’s office is located.

However they were only able to get as far as the Surabaya Radio Republic Indonesia (RRI) building before they were intercepted by police from the Surabaya metropolitan district police (Polrestabes) and the East Java district police (Polda).

‘Independence’ day
The AMP demonstration was held to mark December 1, 1961, as the day West Papua became “independent” from the Dutch. For the Papuan people, December 1 is an important date on the calendar in the Papuan struggle which is commemorated every year.

The historical moment in 1961 was when, for the first time, the West Papuan parliament, under the administration of the Dutch, flew the Morning Star (Bintang Kejora) flag, symbolising the establishment of the state of West Papua.

Since then the Bintang Kejora was flown alongside the Dutch flag throughout West Papua until the Dutch handed administrative authority of West Papua over to the United Nations Temporary Executive Authority (UNTEA) on October 1, 1962, then to the Indonesian government on May 1, 1963.

The UNTEA was an international mechanism involving the UN to prepare a referendum on whether or not the Papuan people wanted to separate or integrate with Indonesia.

The referendum, referred to as the Act of Free Choice (Pepera), resulted in the Papuan people choosing to be integrated into Indonesia.

Since then, the administration of West Papua has been controlled by the Indonesian government and the flying of the Bintang Kejora illegal – as it is deemed an act of subversion (maker) – and have responded to protests with violence and arrests.

A video of the arrests in Ternate, North Maluku. Video: Arnold Belau/Suara Papua

Police arrest 99 Papuan activists at pro-independence rally in Ternate
Arnold Belau of Suara Papua reports from Jayapura that at least 96 activists from the Indonesian People’s Front for West Papua (FRI-WP) were arrested by police in Ternate, North Maluku, after they forcibly broke up a rally in front of the Barito Market.

A Suara Papua source from Ternate said that the FRI-WP action was closed down by police and intel (intelligence) officers and the demonstrators forced into trucks as they were about to begin protesting in front of the Barito Market.

The source said that several activists were dragged and assaulted as they were forced into the truck.
“Several comrades who were at the action were dragged and forced to get into a truck by police and intel in Ternate,” they said.

The source said that as many as 99 people were arrested, 12 of them from West Papua and the rest activists from FRI-WP. One of the protesters had to be rushed home because because of breathing difficulties.

“One of the people had difficulty breathing and was rushed home. Twelve people were from Papua and the rest from Ternate. Currently they are being taken to Polres [district police station]”, they said.

Ternate district police Tactical Police Unit head (kasat sabhara) Aninab was quoted by semarak.news.com as saying that the protesters would be taken to the Ternate district police station.

‘Given guidance’

“We will take them to Polres, question them. If in the process of delving into the matter it is discovered that they committed a violation then they will be charged, but we will bear in mind that are still young and [they should be] given guidance,” he said.

Earlier, the protesters sent a written notification of the action to the Ternate district police but it was rejected with police saying that the planned action was subversive (maker).

Upon arriving at the Ternate district police station they will be registered and those who originate from Papua will be separated from those from North Maluku.

FRI-WP is demanding that the Indonesian government must resolve human rights violations in Papua and that the Papuan people be given the freedom to hold a referendum to determine their own future.

Although it is widely held that West Papua declared independence from Indonesia on December 1, 1961, this actually marks the date when the Morning Star (Bintang Kejora) flag was first raised alongside the Dutch flag in an officially sanctioned ceremony in Jayapura, then called Hollandia.

The first declaration of independence actually took place on July 1, 1971 at the Victoria Headquarters in Waris Village, Jayapura.

Known as the “Act of Free Choice”, in 1969 a referendum was held to decide whether West Papua, a former Dutch colony annexed by Indonesia in 1963, would be become independent or join Indonesia.

The UN sanction plebiscite, in which 1,025 handpicked tribal leaders allegedly expressed their desire for integration, has been widely dismissed as a sham.

Critics claim that that the selected voters were coerced, threatened and closely scrutinised by the military to unanimously vote for integration.

Both of these articles were translated by James Balowski for the Indoleft News Service. The original title of the Surabaya article was “Peringatan 1 Desember Papua, Demo AMP Surabaya Diadang PP & FKPPI” and the Jayapura one “Peringati Hari Lahirnya Embrio Negara Papua Barat, Polisi Tangkap 99 Orang di Ternate”.

This article was first published on Café Pacific.

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

3 killed in West Papua clashes as military pursue elusive rebel leader

Indonesian military and West Papuan pro-independence militants in fresh clashes … new intensity in the Highlands fighting. Image: Victor Yeimo FB page

Pacific Media Centre Newsdesk

At least three people have been killed in a week of shooting clashes between the Indonesian military and police and  militants from the West Papua National Liberation Army (TPN-PB), say reports from the Jakarta-ruled Pacific territory.

The Victor Yeimo pro-independence social media page says the military are trying to capture Purom Wenda, a TPN-PB commander.

Victor Yeimo is chairman of the West Papua National Committee (KNPB).

News agency sources said two Papuan independence fighters and a third person had been killed during the clashes in the remote interior highlands of West Papua.

Wenda has eluded Indonesian security forces for 15 years.

Villagers have fled into the jungle because of the gunbattles, which have been intense since November 2.


Wenda said in a statement two of his fighters had been killed in a shootout with police and soldiers in the rugged Lanny Jaya district after his group shot dead a motorbike taxi driver they believed was spying for Indonesian forces.

“Indonesia said that they have given us special autonomy, infrastructure, and other excuses. We do not want all that. We only want freedom.”

Raising awareness
Meanwhile, RNZ Pacific reports that a group of around 200 people called the West Papua Interest Association had crossed over the border into PNG’s Western Province last week.

It wrote to local police notifying of plans to raise awareness about rights issues.

In response PNG’s police border commander, Samson Kua, advised them not to proceed with their plans.

He said he did not want people disturbing the peace around the time PNG is hosting next week’s APEC (Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation) leaders summit in Port Moresby.

“They will have to wait until APEC is over, and they can do their awareness on whatever they want to do. So actually they’re very peaceful,” Kua said.

“They’re not getting involved with any awareness at the moment, they’re very peaceful. They’re just laying low and staying in their own camps.”

The West Papuans are within their rights to be in PNG, as they hold Traditional Border Crossing cards which allow them to travel over the border into PNG.

This article is republished under the Pacific Media Centre’s content partnership with Radio New Zealand.

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MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Kanaky independence campaign rolls on … encouraged by ballot result

David Robie, who reported from New Caledonia several times during the 1980s for Islands Business magazine, The Australian, New Zealand Times and other media, returned to the French Pacific possession to observe last weekend’s historic referendum. He was also on board the Rainbow Warrior, the Greenpeace environmental ship that was bombed by French secret agents during the height of “les évènements”. He reflects in the second of two articles.

PART 2: By David Robie in Nouméa

A cartoon published by Nouméa’s daily newspaper, Les Nouvelles Calédoniennes, on the eve of the historic independence referendum in New Caledonia at the weekend caught my eye. Noting that thanks to the referendum, people throughout the world – with the possible exception of at least New Zealand whose media was largely absent – were talking about New Caledonia.

“We’re demanding one referendum a month,” says a travel agent.

A touch cynical perhaps, but this caricatured sentiment contrasts with the anti-independence parties that want to scotch the next two referendums – due in 2020 and 2022 – provided for under the 1998 Nouméa Accord. This agreement was an updated version of the original Matignon Accord that ended the civil unrest of the 1980s and opened the door to long-term stability and progress.


The three anti-independence parties, Les Republicains led by Sonia Backès (New Caledonia’s version of Marine le Pen?), Rassemblement and Caledonie Ensemble, reckon that the people have spoken and there is now no need of further referendums.

They were shocked that the indépendantistes did so well given that they had already written off the “declining” demand for independence and were confidently predicting a crushing 70/30.


In the end, the vote was remarkably close, reflecting the success of the pro-independence Kanak and Socialist National Liberation Front (FLNKS) and its National Union for Independence (UNI) partner in mobilising voters, particularly the youth.

The referendum choice was simple and stark. Voters simply had to respond yes or no to the question: “Do you want New Caledonia to attain full sovereignty and become independent?”

Credible independence vote
The “no” response slipped to a 56.4 percent vote while the “yes” vote wrested a credible 43.6 percent share with a record 80 percent turnout.

The final vote count … an unexpectedly close result between the “no” and “yes” vote, offering hope for the Kanaks. Image: Caledonia TV

The encouraging yes vote is even more remarkable when it is taken into account the demographic gerrymandering by the French government that ensured the indigenous Kanaks – who have ruled by France for 165 years since New Caledonia was declared a penal colony in 1853   – would remain a minority in their homeland and in this vote.

More than 20,000 convicts were shipped to New Caledonia in the 19th and early 20th centuries, including Muslim rebels fighting against colonisation in Algeria, and dissidents from the 1870 Paris commune. Later migrants included Japanese, Javanese and Tonkinese (North Vietnamese) labourers in the nickel mines.

Japanese, Javanese and Tonkinese migrants among the early nickel mine workers and settlers as portrayed in Nouméa’s City Museum. Image: David Robie/PMC

Of the 174,154 registered referendum voters, 80,120 were Kanak and 94,034 on the common civil role were also entitled to voted. In the end, a total of 141,099 people cast a vote.

Forty percent of the New Caledonian population are Melanesian Kanaks, 29 percent European, and 9 percent are Polynesians from Wallis and Futuna Islands. The rest are a mixture of Asian and Pacific communities.

Voter restrictions
The referendum voters were restricted under the Noumea accord to those eligible under these criteria:

  • Registered on the special referendum role (or fulfilled its requirements without being registered);
  • Born in New Caledonia and registered on the provincial electoral roles.
  • Lived in New Caledonia for a continuous 20 years;
  • Born before 1 January 1989 and lived in New Caledonia from 1988 to 1998;
  • Born after 1 January 1989 with a parent on the special electoral role; and
  • Born in New Caledonia with three years’ continuous residence (before 31 August 2018).

Pro-independence Radio Djiido’s editor-in-chief Romain Hneum takes the pulse of the voting mood at Noumea’s Hotel de Ville. Image: David Robie/PMC

The encouraging mobilisation of youth voters, a significant change since the 2014 provincial elections, and the emergence of a growing cadre of young multi-ethnic voters who are more open to a shared future than some of their conservative parents augurs well for the indépendantistes.

“This referendum was a victory for the youth. The loyalists’ predictions were thwarted, said FLNKS president Roch Wamytan. “This vote was a big leap forward. We will continue on our pathway, we will prepare the people in New Caledonia for independence.

“The struggle isn’t over until we are decolonised. One winner in the vote was fear. Over the past six months, we have tried to allay fears about retirement provisions, security and education. We clearly didn’t do enough. We will work harder on this for the next ballot.”

FLNKS official Alosio Sako said: “We’re a short step from victory, and there are still two more ballots to come.”

Independence inevitable
Some who voted against independence are resigned to the belief that one day New Caledonia will become independent.

“Silver fern” voters … Spanish-French father and son Arnaud and Manuel Fuentes are opposed to independence but are definitely fans of the All Blacks. Image: David Robie/PMC

Talking to a traveller, Sammy, a Lebanese-born New Caledonian with a French passport, and his Caldoche (settler) wife, who were on my flight back to Auckland and heading to Hanmer Springs for a holiday in “très jolie” New Zealand, gave me some interesting insights.

Ironically, Sammy migrated to New Caledonia after “les évènements” in the 1980s which led to the Matignon Accord in 1988 – to escape the civil war in Lebanon.

“Independence is inevitable,” he says. “I only wish they would get on with it and not have votes, delaying things. Build for the future instead of yet another vote.

“In spite of the vote against independence, it is the way it is going. One day New Caledonia will be independent so it is best to restart our future now. We have a chance to build something really new.”

“The indépendantistes are very determined.”

He seemed to be reflecting the view of Prime Minister Édouard Philippe, who flew to Nouméa from Vietnam for a day to meet political and civic leaders, and was whisked up to the Northern province stronghold “capital”Koné.

Philippe declared that a meeting would be held with the accord “signatories” next month and he hinted at some key policy changes to deal with social conditions and “balancing” the economic cleavage in this nickel rich and tourism booming territory.

Spread in Geo
What made Sammy choose New Caledonia? It was so far away from Lebanon – “it was just like Syria is today” – and he had read an article about New Caledonia in the French magazine Geo.

In fact, Geo has just published a cover story last month about New Caledonia headed “New Caledonia: So near, so far”, a 43-page spread dedicated to the beauty, culture, environment and flora and fauna of this “marvellous” archipelago. It would entice anyone.

The magazine quotes linguist and poet Emmanuel Tjibaou, one of six sons of the Kanak leader Jean-Marie Tjibaou assassinated in 1989 (see Part1), who has been director of the stunning Tjibaou Centre, a cultural memorial to his father, since 2012.

“Being ’Kanak’, or a ‘man’, isn’t a question of skin colour,” he says. “The centre introduces Melanesian culture to Western eyes that are not accustomed to it. Kanak traditions are oral, like elsewhere in Oceania. We live our culture – we discover it through singing, or dancing; we speak, or we weep.”

Independent Caledonia TV … making waves and telling the stories of all ethnicities. Image: Screen shots from NCTV

Another example of emerging “new wave” institutions is a small upstart digital television channel based at Koné. Funded largely by the Kanak-governed Northern province, it is a breath of fresh air compared with the dominant Premiere television (part state-run networks with six channels that look to Paris) and Les Nouvelles Calédoniennes, which has been very hostile to independence in the past, but is more subdued these days.

Caledonia TV making mark
Caledonia TV is already making its mark as an independent channel that is “telling our own stories” about Kanak culture, music and traditions and exploring all ethnicities in New Caledonia.

It played an important role in the referendum by setting up TV studios in the University of New Caledonia and providing balanced coverage and ready access for grassroots people to an engage in a dialogue about their future.

Caledonia TV reporter Duke Menango … telling stories with a difference. Image: David Robie/PMC

I caught up with one of the journalists involved in referendum coverage in the campus studios, Duke Menango, who did some of his early training as a journalist at Aoraki Polytechnic journalism school in Dunedin on a New Zealand aid scholarship.

“Caledonia TV started off as a web-based channel in 2012 and then became a fully fledged TV station the following year,” he said.

“It was important to give people a choice. Previously television was dominated by the state media monopoly with only one direction and one point of view. I don’t think we were being well represented as Kanaks and as Kanak reporters.

“With us, we are going out to the people – the grassroots, and we are giving them a voice. A voice for the different tribes. And it isn’t just the tribes, we are telling the stories of all ethnicities.

“We’re giving everybody a voice.”

Caledonia TV … culture and storytelling from a Pacific perspective. Video: PMC

Stiff challenge
But Caledonia faces a stiff challenge from the “mainstream” media, which is largely not sympathetic to independence.

On the weekend of the referendum, Les Nouvelles Calédoniennes devoted a full page for an editorial denouncing independence.

“France or the unknown?” warned editor-in-chief Olivier Poisson, who derided the FLNKS, claiming that it was presenting an unclear, even “confusing” platform, with contradictory objectives.

“In contrast, it’s a fact that we know New Caledonia is already independent. For sure, it isn’t a question of full sovereignty, but whether the country already decides its economic orientation, imposes its own taxes, leads education, runs health, and is able to enter into international accords and partnerships.”

Finally, his message was: “It’s too risky to take on powers that are too great for so little to gain.”

His message irked many indépendantistes, and drew criticism that the newspaper was illegally breaching the political blackout prior to the referendum

“What kind of bullshit is that again?” asked Magalie Tingal Lémé, a former news editor of the pro-independence Radio Djiido. “The editor-in-chief is not supposed to make any comments since the official campaign is over since last night. Some journalists should start being real journalists in this country.”

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MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Gallery: Global media cover historic New Caledonia independence referendum

1. SBS journalist Stefan Armbruster frames a colourful Kanak flag shot on referendum day. Image: David Robie

2. The France TV – representing six channels – outside broadcast vehicle set up at the French High Commission in Noumea. Image: David Robie/PMC

3. Premiere TV, the local offshoot of the French public broadcaster. Image: David Robie/PMC

4. Les Nouvelles Calédoniennes, the territory’s only daily newspaper. Image: David Robie/PMC

5. University of New Caledonia, referendum broadcast headquarters for the new “people’s” Caledonia TV. Image: David Robier/PMC

6. Caledonia TV presenter Elise Washeline. Image: David Robie/PMC

7. Graphics team for Caledonia TV. The referendum set screen is in the background. Image: David Robie/PMC

8. Caledonia TV reporter Duke Menango. Part of his journalism training was in New Zealand.

9. Police do an ID check for Caledonie TV’s Margot Bantegny at the High Commission. Image: David Robie/PMCMargot Bantegny

10. SBS World News reporter Stefan Armbruster sets up his camera at the Noumea Hôtel de Ville on referendum day. Image: David Robie/PMC

11. Stefan Armbruster (right) and Christophe Mallet interview the first person to vote at the Noumea Hôtel de Ville. Image: David Robie/PMC

12. SBS live cross from Noumea to Australia in the Hôtel de Ville polling station with Christophe Mallet (camera) and Stefan Armbruster. Image: David Robie/PMC

13. Stefan Armbruster and Christophe Mallet (with microphone) check their messages. Image: David Robie/PMC

14. Pro-independence Radio Djiido chief editor Romain Hmeun at the Noumea Hôtel de Ville polling centre. Image: David Robie/PMC

15. Brandy Tevero (left) and chief editor Mike Leyral of Tahiti Nui TV. Image: David Robie/PMC

16. Christophe Mallet interviews Boris Ajapuhnya for SBS French radio. Image: David Robie/PMC

17. The Kiwi contingent – PMC’s director David Robie (left) and Walter Zweifel of Radio NZ Pacific.

18. Stefan Armbruster and Christophe Mallet sitting on the steps of an outbuilding at the French High Commission editing a package for SBS TV News. Image: David Robie/PMC

19. Editing the SBS TV News package. Image: David Robie/PMC

20. FLNKS official Victor Tutugoro talks to media outside the FLNKS headquarters. Image: David Robie/PMC

21. Bag security check for journalists at the French High Commission filmed by a Tokyo TV cameraman. Image: David Robie/PMC.

22. High Commission security guard does a sound check with a RNZ Pacific microphone. Image: David Robie/PMC

23. Escorted up the “back door” driveway to the French High Commission. Gendarmes and Imagesecurity on alert in the gardens. David Robie/PMC

24. Ready to roll … recorders and live feeds about to screen the formal announcement of referendum results. Image: David Robie/PMC

25. Referendum Control Commission president Francis Lamy announcing the results. Image: David Robie/PMC

26. Francis Lamy talks to the press after the formal announcement. Image: David Robie/PMC

27. Waiting for French Prime Minister Édouard Philippe at the French High Commission. Image: David Robie/PMC

28. Still waiting … for the French PM, arriving from Vietnam for just a day. Image: David Robie/PMC

29. French Prime Minister Édouard Philippe addresses New Caledonians on national TV. Image: David Robie/PMC

30. PMC’s David Robie at Tontouta airport on the way back to New Zealand. Image: David Robie/PMC

Article by AsiaPacificReport.nz

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

MSG backing Kanak independence ‘on the quiet’, says campaigner

Kanak pro-independence official Victor Tutugoro talking to journalists outside the FLNKS headquarters in Noumea on Sunday. Image: David Robie/PMC

By RNZ Pacific

A leading New Caledonian pro-independence politician, Victor Tutugoro, says governments of Melanesian countries have quietly supported the New Caledonian independence cause.

Tutugoro, second vice-president of New Caledonia’s Kanak-ruled Northern province and a Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) representative, said that this had been muted in part because of their bilateral links with France.

He said support for the Kanaks had been channelled through the MSG.


“The government of Fiji has been very discreet but generally speaking it’s been the organisation. With governments it’s a different story, they have to be more reserved towards France given their bilateral relation.”

Tutugoro, of the Kanak and Socialist National Liberation Front (FLNKS), said he was yet to speak to delegates of the the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF), who visited Noumea for the weekend’s independence referendum.

The forum defied France in the 1980s by facilitating New Caledonia’s re-inscription on the UN decolonisation list.


French police yesterday reopened the main road between Noumea and the south of New Caledonia after a blockade by protesters had caused tension throughout Monday, the day after the referendum.

This article is republished under the Pacific Media Centre’s content partnership with Radio New Zealand.

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MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

New Caledonia blockade tension fails to mar French PM’s talks on future

French security forces arrive in force to deal with protesters demonstrating over the independence vote defeat near St Louis, Noumea. Image: Screenshot – Les Nouvelles Caledoniennes

By David Robie in Nouméa

French security forces moved in today to clean up the main road near an indigenous Kanak tribal area after a day of tension and rioting failed to mar a lightning visit by French Prime Minister Édouard Philippe and post-independence referendum discussions.

Philippe flew in yesterday morning from Vietnam for a day of meetings with political leaders, customary chiefs and voting commission officials to take stock of the historic referendum on Sunday.

While the people of New Caledonia voted to remain French with a resounding 56.4 percent of the vote, it was a lower winning margin than had been widely predicted in the face of an impressive mobilisation by pro-independence groups.


The yes vote was 43.6 percent but Kanak voters were already a minority of the restricted electorate for this vote that included Caldoche (settlers), descendants of a French penal colony for Algerian and Paris commune dissidents, and people of Asian and Wallisian ancestry.

A record 80.63 percent turnout with 141,099 voters in a largely calm and uneventful referendum day has opened the door for serious negotiations about the future of New Caledonia.

French Prime Minister Édouard Philippe speaking to pool journalists on Nouméa television last night after his national address. Image: Screenshot of Caledonia NCTV

After meeting a range of leaders during the day and flying to Koné to meet President Paul Néaoutyine of the pro-independence stronghold Northern province, Philippe made a televised address to the territory last night.


Praising the people of New Caledonia for the peaceful conduct of the referendum, he called for a “meeting of the signatories” next month to consider the next step.

The breakdown of the New Caledonian independence vote. Graphic: Les Nouvelles Caledoniennes

‘Absolutely unique’
“It is absolutely unique,” he said on television. “There is no other example in the history of France, and there are probably not many examples in the history of other nations of a democratic process of this quality.

“It’s admirable. The question is what brings us together. What shall we do?”

After the prolonged series of clashes in the 1980s known locally as les Evénements” – culminating in the Ouvéa cave massacre when 19 Kanak militants were killed on 5 May 1988 with the loss of six gendarmes and the assassination of respected Kanak leaders Jean-Marie Tjibaou and Yeiwene Yeiwene a year later – New Caledonia has enjoyed 30 years of relative peace and progress.

The Matignon Accord in 1988 and then the Nouméa Accord a decade later paved the way for Sunday’s referendum

Prime Minister Philippe indicated that a fresh approach was now needed with a greater emphasis on social and economic development than political structures and to address “inequalities”.

The prime minister had lunch with students at the University of New Caledonia. Following his TV address and evening “pool” interview with media, he flew back to Paris last night.

Under the Nouméa Accord, up to two more referendums can be held in 2020 and 2022 with one-third support from the territorial Congress.

Scrap extra votes
The anti-independence parties want to scrap the provision for further referendums while the pro-independence Kanak and Socialist National Liberation Front (FLNKS) coalition and UNI want the votes to go ahead as planned.

The small Labour Party is also pro-independence but chose a tactical “non participation” approach to the referendum which it criticised as “dishonest”.

The pro-independence hand has been strengthened by the success of mobilising young people and showing the world that they “are serious” about their vision of a new nation, Kanaky New Caledonia.

“Édouard Philippe was here to listen to us,” said FLNKS president Rock Wamytan. “Despite the opposition crowing that they were going to dominate 70/30, we have spoken of dialogue and negotiation. I have remained as prudent as the Sioux”, referring to the First Nation people of Dakota who resisted US state oppression in the 19th century.

Anti-independence Rassemblement leaders Pierre Frogier said the referendum result “anchors New Caledonia in France” and there was no need for further votes.

He criticised the referendum process, claiming that it had created a “divided Caledonian society”.

Saint Louis rioting … front page news in les Nouvelle Caledoniennes today. Image: LNC

The clashes on the RP1 road near St Louis tribal area of Nouméa yesterday when protesters set fire to tyres on the main road, burned cars and pelted police with stones wracked up tension. The skirmishes sparked angry talkback sessions on loyalist radio stations and frontpage headlines of “violence” in the conservative daily newspaper Les Nouvelle Calédoniennes today.

However, security forces were deployed to the area in a show of force yesterday and were trying to regain control.

There have been other sporadic incidents too, but the referendum result has been largely accepted peacefully.

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MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Flashback to Kanaky in the 1980s – ‘Blood on their banner’

About 175,000 New Caledonians will vote on the future of their Pacific territory this Sunday—a status quo French-ruled New Caledonia, or an independent Kanaky New Caledonia. What will be their choice? David Robie backgrounds the issues that led to the vote.

With New Caledonia facing the first of possibly three referendums on independence on Sunday—given the widely expected defeat this time around, it is timely to reflect on the turbulent 1980s.

An upheaval known locally by the euphemism of “les evenements” led to the 1988 Matignon and 1998 Nouméa accords as a compromise solution for indigenous Kanak demands for independence back then and the power sharing that has evolved for the past three decades.

The climax is with this Sunday’s vote, but if the status quo remains the accords provide for a further two referendums in 2020 and 2023.(1)

READ MORE: Asia Pacific Report coverage of the referendum


When the Pacific was still in the grip of Cold War geopolitics, France claimed that it wished to retain its South Pacific presence for similar reasons to the United States—a concern about communism and the old Soviet Union, the desire for stability and the maintenance of the “balance of power”.

But there were other, more sinister, factors behind the publicly stated reasons. French colonialism in both New Caledonia and Tahiti in the 19th century was largely motivated by the wish to prevent the South Pacific becoming a “British lake”. (2)


New Caledonia became the most critical factor in this political equation. When Vanuatu became independent from Britain and France in 1980, France’s then State Secretary for Overseas Territories, Paul Dijoud, pledged that “battle must be done to keep New Caledonia French”.

New Caledonia was at that time the last “domino” before French Polynesia where the vital nuclear tests for the force de frappe were still being carried out until they ended in 1996.

Revolt, assassinations
It is in this context that the 1984 Kanaks revolted against French rule, which eventually cost 32 lives—most of them Melanesian, with the Hienghène massacre the most devastating early clash and culminating in the assassinations of independence leaders Jean-Marie Tjibaou and Yéiwene Yéiwene on 4 May 1989.

Within eight weeks of the start of the rebellion, militant Kanak leader Éloï Machiro, who had bloodlessly captured the mining town of Thio, was dead—shot by French police marksmen. From then on nationalist tensions in New Caledonia rapidly became convulsions, spreading throughout the South Pacific and culminated in the Ouvéa cave massacre on 5 May 1988 with the brutal death of 19 young militants and two French security forces. (3)

The New Caledonian events led to my 1989 book Blood On Their Banner: Nationalist Struggles in the South Pacific (4) and the shocking story of the Ouvéa hostage-taking saga and its savage climax was told graphically in Mathieu Kassovitz’s 2011 film Rebellion (l’Ordre et la morale).(5)

A report by CIGN hostage negotiator Captain Philippine Legorjus, who had tried valiantly to achieve a peaceful end to the crisis, said: “Some acts of barbarity have been committed by the French military in contradiction with their military duty.”

His report later became the basis of the controversial feature film’s script.

The following 1984 article, “Blood on their Banner”, one of my first while covering New Caledonia as an independent journalist through the 1980s, was published in the New Zealand Listener and later included in my 2014 book Don’t Spoil My Beautiful face: Media, Mayhem and Human Rights in the Pacific.(6)


A masked Kanak militant near Thio, New Caledonia, 1985, on the cover of the Swedish edition of David Robie’s 1989 book Blood on their Banner. Image: David Robie/PMC


New Zealand Listener

27 October 1984

Leaders of New Caledonia’s independence movement say that time is running out. Their blood has already been spilt and they fear more bloodshed lies ahead.(7)

A new flag flutters defiantly from makeshift flagpoles in a handful of villages in New Caledonia. It is blue, red, and green-striped—symbolising the sky, blood and earth. A golden orb represents the rising sun.

This premature banner of independence was first hoisted in Lifou Island during an official ceremony recently marking the 44th anniversary of General de Gaulle’s call for a Free France.

Two flags … French tricolour and the Kanak ensign symbolising independence. Image: David Robie/PMC

Mayor Edward Wapae, of the ruling Independence Front, recalled that de Gaulle’s speech in 1940 showed a determination to “liberate France soil from the Nazi occupiers and to reconquer French independence, the principles of which had made her the home of the rights of man and liberties”.

In the next breath, Wapae said that the children and the grandchildren of the Kanaks (the largest single ethnic group in New Caledonia), who had fought for France then, were fed up with vain promises. He made a “last chance” plea for France to honour “her declarations condemning colonisation and defending the right of each people to decide their own future”.

The flags are just one manifestation of a growing mood of impatience and disillusionment among Kanaks demanding independence in the French-ruled South Pacific territory—New Zealand’s closest major Pacific Island neighbour. Another is the talk in villages of the “sacrifices” made by peasants during the Algerian war of independence.

French Pacific Regiment troops on ceremonial parade outside New Caledonia’s Territorial Assembly in Nouméa. Image: David Robie/PMC

South Pacific Forum leaders, meeting in Tuvalu during August [1984], again caution against putting too much pressure on France while urging that Paris speed up the colonisation process.

Take-it-easy attitude
Yet for the Kanaks, and neighbouring Vanuatu, this take-it-easy attitude is rather bewildering. “The Forum sees things the same way as the French socialists and our position—their Pacific brother—isn’t seriously considered,” complains Jean-Marie Tjibaou, who as Vice-President of the Government Council holds the territory’s highest elected post.

He has been particularly disillusioned with Australia and New Zealand, at least until Prime Minister David Lange’s sudden “reconnaissance mission” to Nouméa in early October.

Vanuatu’s Prime Minister, Father Walter Lini, also disappointed at the Forum’s lukewarm support, plans to press the New Caledonian case at the United Nations and try to get it reinstated on the so-called Decolonisation Committee’s list. He blames the Forum if violence erupts in the territory and fears “foreign opportunists may exploit the instability”.

The Independence Front, now renamed the Kanak Socialist National Liberation Front (FLNKS), recently decided to boycott and obstruct fresh elections due in the territory next month in protest against a new statute of autonomy.

Instead, the FLNKS has called its own parliamentary elections for November 11, planning to form a provisional government by December and renamed the country Kanaky.

Although the statute calls for a referendum on independence in 1989, the Forum believes this should be advanced to 1986—while the FLNKS wants independence next year.

Lini criticises the view, often expressed by Australia and New Zealand, that Paris has been doing all it could and should be given time to decolonise. “The history of French decolonisation frequently has not been peaceful … and no other South Pacific nation, apart from Vanuatu, has suffered it.”

Vanuatu’s ruling Vanua’aku Pati has made a revolution that opens the door for the FLNKS to form a government-in-exile in Port Vila. But Vanuatu’s government ministers are reluctant to discuss this and it is believed they would prefer a “people’s government to be with the people” in New Caledonia.

Hectic trip
In Tuvalu, Lange won support for establishing a five-nation Forum ministerial delegation—including New Zealand and Vanuatu—to visit Nouméa for talks with French authorities and the indépèndantistes.

After briefly flying to Nouméa and Port Vila at the end of his hectic trip, he stressed it was clear all New Caledonian political groups apart from the right-wingers wanted independence. He hoped to bring the factions together before the elections but his peaceful initiative may already be too late.

A Kanak girl in Nouméa’s Place des Cocotiers during a pro-independence rally in 1984. Image: David Robie/Tu Galala

Why are the indépèndantistes taking this more militant stance when they are at present in the driver’s seat as the senior coalition partner in the government? “With the present colonial electoral system and past immigration policies, Melanesians are a minority in their homeland,” explains Vice-President Tjibaou, a 48-year old sociologist. “We cannot accept that logic. Now we’re putting a halt to it.

“We need a statute that will accept our logic—the logic of Kanak sovereignty.”

The bitter reality for New Caledonians, both brown and white, is that the French government has pushed through an autonomy statute that nobody wants. The Territorial Assembly in Noumea unanimously rejected the bill earlier this year. Justin Guillemard, leader of the extreme right-wing Caledonian Front, describes the law as an “administrative monstrosity” and “racist” in favour of Melanesians.

President Francois Mitterrand’s government, so keen to foster a strong middle ground, now seems further away than ever from any consensus among New Caledonians. And the Caldoche (settlers) are alarmed at the FLNKS’s determination to seek foreign help.

Wealthy businessman Jacques Lafleur, a deputy in the French national Assembly and leader of the Republican Congress Party which held local power until two years ago, denounced as “provocative” a visit by Tjibaou to Port Moresby in August when he lobbied an Asian-Pacific leaders’ regional summit. Lafleur also condemned a recent visit to Libya by two other Independence Front leaders.

Great admirer
The 51-year old Lafleur is a fifth-generation Caldoche and a great admirer of former Prime Minister Sir Robert Muldoon— “the only South Pacific leader who understands us”.

With an air of cynicism, he says: “Maybe there could be independence in 20 years or so, but it depends on what sort … I would never be a Kanak citizen. We are French people and the Kanaks are French too… One bad move and there will be blood in the streets.”

But for the Kanaks, blood has already been flowing in the streets and they fear more being spilt. French authorities have been quietly building up the strength of military forces in the territory to maintain order, if necessary. It is believed more than 4000 paramilitary and regular troops are now garrisoned there.

A French Pacific Regiment marine in a Nouméa military parade in the 1980s. Image: David Robie/PMC

One MP, Yann-Celene Uregei, has a photograph in his office of his face battered and bleeding from the blows of a policeman’s truncheon at a protest rally during a previous French Government’s rule. Two years ago a group of extremist white thugs burst into the Territorial Assembly chamber and attacked pro-independence MPs. They received light sentences. There have also been sporadic riots.

On the night of 19 September 1981, French-born Pierre Declercq, 43, secretary-general of the Union Calédonienne and a leading strategist of the Independence Front, was shot with a riot gun through the study window on his Mt Dore home. It was the first assassination of a South Pacific political leader. Now, three years later, nobody has yet been put in the dock for the murder.

During August more than 600 people marched on the Noumea courthouse demanding that a trial be held over the killing of “white martyr” Declercq, whose party was the key member of the FLNKS. Similar protest rallies were held in Poindimie, Pouebo, Voh and on Lifou Island in the Loyalty group.

Kanak wearing a “white martyr” tee-shirt honouring an assassinated early FLNKS leader Pierre Declercq. Image: David Robie/PMC

A young motorcycle mechanic, Dominic Canon, was arrested and charged four days after the murder. Another man, Vanuatu-born barman Martin Barthelemy, was arrested a year later. But both suspects have been freed on bail.

Judicial delay scandalous
Marguitte Declercq accuses justice officials and gendarmes of obstructing inquiries into her husband’s killing; League of Human Rights secretary-general Jean-Jacques Bourdinat has called the judicial delay scandalous.

When I spoke to the cherubic-faced Canon, now 22, in his workshop on the outskirts of Noumea just after his release on $5000 bail from the notorious Camp Est prison, he insisted: “I’m innocent. They put me in jail for nothing.”

New Caledonia’s problem stem from its complex racial mix. Kanaks number only 60,000 out of a population of 140,000. About 50,000 Europeans form the next largest group, and the rest are potpourri of Vietnamese, Indonesians, Tahitians and Wallisians.

New Caledonia was annexed by France in 1853, mainly for the use as a penal colony. In three decades after 1860 more than 40,000 prisoners—including leaders of the 1871 Paris commune insurrection and other political exiles—were deported to the colony.

“Colonial assassins” graffiti denouncing French colonial rule in the Place des Cocotiers, Noumea, 1984. Image: David Robie/PMC

For almost a century the Kanaks were deprived of political and civil rights But after they finally won the vote in 1951, they begun to wrest a limited share of their own country’s development—which was later fuelled by a nickel boom.

According to Vice-President Tjibaou, the New Caledonian territorial government has less power now than during the controversial loi cadre years between 1956 and 1959, when the territory was almost self-governing. Later conservative French governments favoured policies which meant New Caledonia was governed as an integral part of France until the Mitterrand administration embarked on reforms in 1981—after the assassination of Declercq.

The indépèndantistes argue that the current French reforms, far from being progressive, have in fact only been restoring some of the progress made in the 1950s. And they fear that if the Socialists lose office in the French general election due in 1986 they will be faced with another stalemate. Hence their urgency for independence next year.

Unique style
They claim President Mitterrand betrayed a commitment to independence made before being elected, and again at a roundtable conference at Nainville-les-Roches last year.

The controversial statute will increase the Territorial Assembly from 36 seats to 42 (slightly favouring the indépèndantistes): create a unique style of upper house comprising custom chiefs and representatives of elected town councils; introduce six regional (Kanaks prefer the word pays, or cultural community) administrations; and establish a special commission to prepare the way for a referendum on self-determination in 1989.

Kanak villagers guard a barricade near Bourail, New Caledonia, 1985. The Kanak flag bears a red band representing the blood sacrificed in their struggle. Image: David Robie/London Sunday Times

“We haven’t any choice but to oppose the application of the statute,” says Tjibaou. “We must impose an ‘active’ boycott, because if we accept these elections under the statute of autonomy, we accept the colonial logic behind them.”

Tjibaou believes the election result would be insignificant and unrepresentative of the territory. Many FLNKS leaders consider that the French government couldn’t allow an unrepresentative local government, so they would annul the elections and be forced into making quicker concessions for electoral reforms.

French officials concede there could be a case for a qualified franchise, such as Fiji’s nine-year residential clause, but consider the FLNKS demand that voters should be only Kanaks or people with at least one parent born in New Caledonia to be “unconstitutional”. Fearful of eventual independence, white Caledonians are applying in droves for immigration permits to Australia. Wealthy New Caledonians are also buying lands in New Zealand’s South Island, California, Hawai’i, Queensland and the French Riviera.

Most Kanaks support the Independence Front, a coalition of five parties until the Kanak Socialist Liberation, led by charismatic Nidoishe Naisseline, split away recently over the election boycott decision. Naisseline, a Sorbonne-educated grand chief, says Kanaks “shouldn’t try to copy nationalist movements in Africa and Indo-China”.

The majority of Europeans back Lafleur’s Republican Congress Party which used to advocate continued integration with France. Now it is outflanked on the right by the Caledonian Front while the centrist Caledonian New Society Federation (FNSC), also mainly European, has been supporting the Independence Forum for the last two years.

New Caledonian politics is highly complex, and feelings are potentially explosive.
While the rest of the South Pacific—apart from Vanuatu, which was forced to cope with an abortive secession—peacefully gained independence, New Caledonia seems fated to break that pattern. Little wonder the indépèndantistes have included symbolic blood on their banner.


Ongoing conflict
Over the next seven years, I closely reported the ongoing conflict in Kanaky for Pacific and global media.

Multimillionaire mining and property mogul Jacques Lafleur, one of the richest men in France and the biggest thorn for Kanak independence, even though he eventually reluctantly signed the two critical accords paving the way for possible independence, died in 2010 aged 78.
He dominated New Caledonian politics for more than three decades, including 29 as a member of the French National Assembly.

Along with Jean-Marie Tjibaou—one of the great visionary Pacific leaders until he was assassinated in 1989 (7), Lafleur signed the 1988 Matignon accord and then the Noumea accord in 1998, and honoured a pledge to Tjibaou to open the way for a Kanak stake in the nickel mining industry.

Lafleur agreed to sell his controlling stake in Societe Miniere du Sud Pacific (SMSP) to the Kanak-dominated Northern Province government in 1990.

New Caledonian nickel is shipped to many Asian countries where it is processed to manufacture steel, electronics and consumer goods. The nickel industry has made many Caldoche wealthy, with minerals for 90 percent of the territory’s export revenue.
Criticism of the industry is highly unpopular with the establishment.

The Pacific Media Centre’s Professor David Robie is author of Blood on their Banner: Nationalist Struggles in the South Pacific and Don’t Spoil My Beautiful Face.

1. Haut-Commissariat de la Republique en Nouvelle-Caledonie (2018). Consultation sur l’accession a la plein souverainete de la Nouvelle Caledonie.
2. David Robie (1989). Introduction. In Blood On Their Banner: Nationalist Struggles in the South Pacific. London: Zed Books, p. 17.
3. Max Uechtritz (2018, May 7). Blood in the Pacific: 30 years on from the Ouvéa Island cave massacre. Asia Pacific Report.
4. David Robie (1989). Och världen blundar… kampen för frihet i Stilla havet [And the world closed its eyes – campaign for a free South Pacific]. Swedish trans. Margareta Eklof]. Hoganas, Sweden: Wiken Books; David Robie (1989). Blood On Their Banner: Nationalist Struggles in the South Pacific. London: Zed Books.
5. David Robie (2012). Gossana cave siege tragic tale of betrayal. Pacific Journalism Review: Te Koakoa, 18(2), 212-216.
6. David Robie (2014). Don’t Spoil My Beautiful face: Media, Mayhem and Human Rights in the Pacific. Auckland: Little Island Press./
7. David Robie (1984, October 27). Blood on their banner. New Zealand Listener, pp. 14-15
8. Sarah Walls (2009). Jean-Marie Tjibaou: Statesman without a state: a reporter’s perspective. The Journal of Pacific History. 44(2), 165-178.

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MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Kanak independence struggle gains Maohi support as vote looms

By Nic Maclellan in Ponerihouen, New Caledonia

In a show of support for the Kanak independence movement, Maohi leader Oscar Manutahi Temaru has joined the campaign trail in New Caledonia, urging voters to support a Yes vote in the country’s referendum on self-determination next month.

Temaru is a former President of French Polynesia and long-time leader of the Maohi independence movement Tavini Huiraatira no Te Ao Maohi. He was joined in New Caledonia by Moetai Brotherson, an elected member of the local Assembly in Tahiti and one of French Polynesia’s representatives in the French National Assembly in Paris.

In New Caledonia, the Tahitian delegates faced a punishing schedule of speaking engagements around the country in the lead up to the referendum vote on November 4.

READ MORE: Special reports on New Caledonia/Kanaky by Dr Lee Duffield


Brotherson was welcomed at a public meeting at the University of New Caledonia in Noumea, and then travelled to the rural towns of Foha (La Foa), Waa Wi Lûû (Houailou) and Pwäräiriwa (Ponerihouen).

Speaking at community meetings in each location, he highlighted the longstanding support of Tavini Huiraatira for the Kanak struggle, and called on people to mobilise for the referendum on self-determination.


At a festival in the east coast town of Ponerihouen, Oscar Temaru said he had travelled to New Caledonia to support the independence movement Front de Liberation National Kanak et Socialiste (FLNKS).

“I am here to support them – to show that the international community is here to watch what will happen in New Caledonia,” he said. “We are sure that the accession of New Caledonia to independence and sovereignty will also mean self-determination for our country Maohi Nui.”

Long history
The Maohi independence leader highlighted the long history that links independence movements across the French-speaking Pacific, from Vanuatu to Kanaky-New Caledonia and Maohi Nui-French Polynesia.

In 1977, there were significant challenges to French colonialism across the region. Under the leadership of Jean-Marie Tjibaou, New Caledonia’s main political party Union Calédonienne adopted a position in favour of independence from France instead of autonomy.

In the Anglo-French condominium of New Hebrides, Father Walter Lini joined other leaders to launch a boycott of the 1977 elections, transforming the New Hebrides National Party into the Vanua’aku Pati and ultimately serving as the first Prime Minister of independent Vanuatu.

In 1977, Oscar Temaru also established the Front de Libération de Polynésie (FLP – Polynesian Liberation Front) in Tahiti. The following year, he travelled to the United Nations in New York for the first time, to call for the right to self-determination and an end to nuclear testing on Moruroa and Fangataufa atolls.

“For more than 40 years, we’ve been fighting together to get our independence back,” Temaru said. “Over all those years, so many things have happened: the former leaders of the FLNKS got killed, they’ve had the Matignon Accords and the Noumea Accord. But on November 4, they have the right to decide to decide their future.”

Oscar Temaru highlighted the importance of international scrutiny of the self-determination process, and welcomed the arrival of a United Nations mission to monitor the vote.

While the French government has supported its involvement in recent years, the UN’s role has been contested over many decades.

Refused authority
From 1947, soon after the United Nations was created, France refused to accept UN authority over decolonisation and the right to self-determination. New Caledonia was only reinscribed on the UN list of non-self-governing territories in December 1986, as members of the Pacific Islands Forum supported the FLNKS to successfully lobby for UN General Assembly resolution 41/41.

It took another 27 years for French Polynesia to be similarly re-inscribed with the UN Special Committee on Decolonisation. In 2013, a UN General Assembly resolution on French Polynesia, sponsored by Solomon Islands, Nauru and Tuvalu, was adopted by the 193-member body without a vote.

Moetai Brotherson told a public meeting in La Foa that the FLNKS had achieved more recognition than the Maohi independence movement.

“You’re a bit ahead of us on the path to independence, so we’re watching what is happening with great attention,” he said. “Oscar Temaru was in New York with Jean-Marie Tjibaou in 1986 when New Caledonia was re-inscribed on the list of non-self-governing territories at the United Nations.

“Our re-inscription, however, only came in 2013. You have advanced along the path. You have made agreements with the French State, you have welcome UN special missions, all of this leading to the decision on November 4. But for us, we’re not there yet.”

He noted fundamental legal differences between the three French Pacific dependencies, which all hold a different constitutional status within the French Republic. The 1998 Noumea Accord is entrenched as a sui generis section within the French Constitution, unlike French Polynesia’s 2004 autonomy statute and the 1961 statute for Wallis and Futuna.

The Noumea Accord creates a clear, legally binding pathway for up to three referendums on self‐determination in New Caledonia. In contrast, French Polynesia has no such path to a referendum.

Constitutional difference
Moetai Brotherson explained: ”There is a difference between the constitutional situation of our two countries. Today, Kanaky-New Caledonia is the only territory of the French Republic to have a specific section in the Constitution.

“You, the Kanak people are the only ‘people’, apart from the French people, recognised in the French Constitution. Apart from that reference, there are no overseas peoples, just ‘populations’.

“You’ve achieved this higher level within the laws of the French Republic,” he said. “For us in Maohi Nui – or French Polynesia as they call it – we only have a population, not a people. This is unacceptable for us.”

For Oscar Temaru, international monitoring of November’s referendum is vital, given France’s ongoing refusal to organise a decolonisation process in his own country.

“Re-inscription in 2013 was very important,” he said. “The resolution that has been adopted by the UN General Assembly was very clear. It reminds the administering power of the right of the Maohi people to self-determination, our right to all our resources of our country and also calls for France to answer to the international community on thirty years of nuclear testing.”

However, Brotherson stressed that the French government refuses to acknowledge any role for the United Nations over self-determination in French Polynesia, failing to meet its obligations as an administering power. Each year, under Article 73e of the UN Charter, colonial powers are required to submit information to the United Nations relating to economic, social and political conditions in their territories.

In recent years, France has formally submitted information about New Caledonia, but refused to submit similar information on French Polynesia.

‘Schizophrenic situation’
Brotherson noted: “We’re in this schizophrenic situation where France has two territories listed at the United Nations. In the case of New Caledonia, France collaborates completely with the United Nations. But in our case, they’re in denial about our re-inscription.

“Every time we’re at the UN Decolonisation Committee, the French representative is in the room when the question of New Caledonia is raised, but as soon as they announce discussion of the question of French Polynesia, he leaves.”

In June 2017, Brotherson defeated Patrick Howell of the governing party Tapura Huiraatira, in the election for French Polynesia’s third constituency in the French National Assembly. Today, as a member of the Republican Democratic Left parliamentary group, Brotherson serves on the French parliament’s Foreign Affairs Commission and overseas delegation.

New Caledonia is currently represented in the French National Assembly by Philippe Gomes and Philippe Dunoyer of the anti-independence Calédonie ensemble party. Brotherson told the FLNKS meeting in Ponerihouen: “When I arrived in Paris, I was saddened to see that there were no Kanak brothers in the National Assembly.

“If in coming times, there are still no Kanak deputies in the Parliament, you will still have a voice there. To ensure that your message will be heard in Paris, you can count on me.”

He pledged support for the Kanak people in the French Parliament in the aftermath of November’s referendum: “I hope that – if there is a Yes vote – the current loyalist deputies in the National Assembly will have the intelligence to serve as dignified representatives of the New Caledonian nation that will be born from this referendum.

“But if that’s not the case, I reiterate my commitment – with the approval of your leaders – to act as a spokesperson for your cause within the French parliament.”

Campaigning for Yes
On October 20, more than 2000 people gathered at the major FLNKS festival in Ponerihouen, which marked the end of referendum campaigning in the Kanak customary region of Ajie-Aro. They were joined by the leaders of three major independence parties – Daniel Goa of Union Calédonienne (UC), Paul Neaoutyine of the Parti de Libération Kanak (Palika) and Victor Tutugoro of Union Progressiste Mélanesienne (UPM).

Temaru and Brotherson joined FLNKS representatives and two Corsican independence activists, Francois Benedetti and Alain Mosconi, for a roundtable on sovereignty and decolonisation.

Just as Scotland is debating independence from the United Kingdom and Catalan nationalists want independence for their region in Spain, there is a strong autonomist movement in Corsica. In a significant breakthrough in December last year, Gilles Simeoni led the nationalist alliance Pè a Corsica to victory in the Corsican Assembly, uniting the autonomist party Femu a Corsica and the pro-independence Corsica Libera.

Three months before travelling to New Caledonia for his first visit last May, French President Emmanuel Macron also visited the French-controlled Mediterranean island. Macron, however, refused the nationalists’ longstanding call to recognise Corsican as an official language.

Congratulating the work of the Academy of Kanak Languages (ALK) and the teaching of local indigenous languages in New Caledonian schools, Corsica Libera’s Alain Mosconi noted: “For decades, the French government has hindered the use of dialects, of patois, regional languages and our language in Corsica.

“They’ve promoted French as the official language. This is a lamentable situation. That’s why we call for our national rights and support the Kanak right to nationhood.”

Tavini Huiraatira’s Moetai Brotherson highlighted the common cause of independence movements across the Pacific.

‘We share many things’
“We share many things – we share the same colonial power and the same colonial history,” he said.

“At a time of resistance to colonial rule in Maohi Nui, the resisters were exiled here to New Caledonia. The high chiefs on Raiatea resisted annexation for many years in the Leeward Islands, but were sent here as exiles.

“At the same time, many of your resisters were exiled to the Marquesas Islands, in our homeland.

“Today, colonisation is symbolised by the concentration of wealth in the hands of a few – always the same few – and by a totally inequitable distribution of that wealth. In both our countries, there is wealth enough, but it’s concentrated in a few hands, That’s the challenge of decolonisation, sovereignty and independence.”

Polynesians from Wallis and Futuna and French Polynesia make up 10 per cent of the population of New Caledonia, so Brotherson called on the Kanak people to mobilise for a Yes vote, but to maintain their welcome for people from other lands.

“The Yes must be an inclusive Yes, not one that excludes people, not a Yes that turns people against each other,” he said. “On November 5, everyone must have their place in Kanaky-New Caledonia. You have a chance that we don’t – to have your say about the future through this referendum. You must seize this moment.”

Nic Maclellan is a journalist and researcher specialising in Pacific island affairs. This article was first published in Islands Business.

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MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

New Caledonia independence ‘in their hearts’, but also a ‘scary’ future

Kanaks and long-time New Caledonian settlers get to vote on their future on November 4. But, as Michael Andrew of Asia Pacific Journalism points out, if Kanaks don’t get their wish for independence this time around, they have two more chances in 2020 and 2023 to vote for a new nation.

In Noumea, two main flags fly outside the Territorial Congress building of New Caledonia: the national Tricolore of France and the flag of the Kanak and Socialist National Liberation Front, or FLNKS.

With the long-awaited independence referendum set for just three months away – on November  4 – New Caledonia will have an opportunity to move into the future with the Kanak flag flying solo.

In keeping with the 1998 Noumea accord, the upcoming referendum is part of France’s promise to restore political power to the original, indigenous population – the Kanaks.  If the result is no for independence, there will be an opportunity to vote again in 2020 and 2023.

READ MORE: Decolonisation vote looms – what lies ahead?

If the result is yes, the French territory will become a new Pacific country.

According to local woman Delphine Afchain, however, the consequences of such an outcome are causing concern and doubt in some sections of the community.


“The people don’t know what will happen,” she says. “The politicians haven’t exposed to us what will happen if we get independence. It’s a bit blurry to us.”

Afchain lives in Kone, the provincial seat of the Northern Province of the main island, Grande Terre. Since the 1980s, the north, along with the Loyalty Islands has been administered with relative autonomy by the Kanaks, who elect representatives to the Territorial Congress.

Kanak pride, identity
Although Kanak pride and identity is widespread throughout the province, Afchain says many people have grown accustomed to the perks of French influence.

“Our young people are going to university in France to do studies. And they come back here to get jobs. That’s the normal way,” she says.

French education is one of several benefits granted Kanaks since the signing of the Noumea accord, and its predecessor, the Matignon accord, in 1988. Under those agreements – established to reduce historical unrest and division – Kanaks have been granted full French citizenship, special land rights, custom identity and access to healthcare and infrastructure in the wealthiest island state in the Pacific.

If the vote for independence succeeds, critics fear some of those  those benefits will be swept away.

Yet some Kanaks believe this is a necessary cost if it means they can have their own country. For these indépendantistes, too much has been sacrificed to falter so close to their goal.

Jaimie Waimo is a Kanak journalist who works for the territorial television channel Caledonia. He explains that although he doesn’t know exactly what will happen if independence is achieved, he will still vote “yes” to honour the historical struggles of his people.

“As a Kanak person, I have the duty to follow what has been fought for in the past,” he says through a translator. “My choice is there to mark the respect to the dead Kanaks who fought for it.”

Hienghene massacre
The grievous deaths of independence campaigners in the 1980s remain a powerful reminder of the true cost of the campaign; in 1984, 10 unarmed Kanak militants were slaughtered by a group of white and mixed-race settlers, or Caldoches, in a premeditated ambush known as the Hienghene massacre.

A few years later, 19 Kanaks were slaughtered on Ouvéa Island after an offensive by the French military to free captured gendarme hostages.

Political leaders have even been assassinated; Jean-Marie Tjibaou, then leader of FLNKS, and his deputy Yeiwene Yeiwene were gunned down in 1989 not long after negotiating the Matignon Accord.

Another Northern resident, Sylvie Brier, likens the conflict during that period to civil war. However, she says much of it was necessary to enact the changes that came with the Matignon and Noumea accords.

“Since the Matignon-Oudinot agreement, there has been the creation of a training plan with funds for improving skills of the Kanak community in many sectors – public administration, business management, and teaching,” says Brier.

Working for a Northern-based economic development organisation, she is neither pro nor anti-independence. She belongs to a third group who are in favour of independence but believe the move would be economically unwise at this time.

“I think we don’t have enough information about the days after the referendum.”

Crucial role
Economics plays a crucial role in the independence debate; New Caledonia is one of the five biggest producers of nickel in the world. Currently, five mines operate throughout the territory with the total output accounting for more than 80 percent of all export commodities and almost 10 percent of the GDP.

While pro-independence parties would like to use such wealth for the new country’s benefit, some Kanaks are wary about doing this without the technology, investment and expertise provided by France.

The loss of French financial support in general concerns all parties involved in the independence debate.

For fourth generation Caldoches Stephane Nea and Cheryl Young, this is the main reason they will be voting “no”. They say that although they don’t have much allegiance to France and are proud to be from New Caledonia, the ramifications of independence are too unpredictable.

“No one has told us how they will replace the money France gives every year,” they say through a translator.

“We are scared of the future.”

This uncertainty is reflected in the latest opinion polls. Conducted in late April through I-Scope, the results show a “no” vote is likely with 22.5 percent for independence against 59.7 percent opposed and 17.8 percent undecided.

Peace outcome
However, according to academic and journalist Dr Lee Duffield, a research associate of the Pacific Media Centre and who visited New Caledonia last month, this result will not silence many indépendantistes.

“If it’s no, it’s the peaceful outcome of continuity but it doesn’t solve the problem of the Kanak spiritual feeling,” he says.

“They haven’t got their own country. They can’t take an equal place in the Melanesian world as a free sovereign state.

“Also they’re very dissatisfied that they’re poorer than the French.”

With another referendum set for 2020 and many of these issues unlikely to be resolved by then, the quest for a sovereign country under one flag is certain to go on.

“They’ve got that burning fire,” says Dr Duffield.

“It’s in the hearts and in the passion.”

Michael Andrew is a student journalist on the Postgraduate Diploma in Communication Studies (Journalism) reporting on the Asia-Pacific Journalism course at AUT University.

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Article by AsiaPacificReport.nz

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media