Australia and Indonesia agree to step up military cooperation

Indonesian military … cooperation with Australia is one of the biggest that the TNI enjoys with armies of other countries. Image: TribuneNews

By Gita Irawan in Jakarta

Indonesia’s Army Chief of Staff (Kasad) General Andika Perkasa and Australian Defence Force chief General Angus John Campbell have agreed to further increase military cooperation between the two countries.

The meeting between Perkasa and Campbell was held in the framework of a “courtesy call” between the military leaders of the two countries.

This was conveyed by army information office chief (Kadispenad) Brigadier-General Candra Wijaya in a written press release received by Tribune News this week.

“During the meeting, the Kasad said that the TNI AD’s (army’s) role in safeguarding and defending the unity of the land territory of the NKRI [Unitary State of the Republic of Indonesia] is not easy, so in several of its activities the TNI AD always endeavors to improve professionalism and the quality of its soldiers,” General Wijaya said.

General Wijaya said that this effort include improving education and training programmes and closer cooperation with the armies of friendly countries.

General Wijaya also took the opportunity to say that Perkasa is very aware that the cooperation and the bilateral relationship between the armies of the two countries have been good.

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According to General Wijaya, this cooperation is one of the biggest that the TNI AD enjoys with the armies of other countries.

Several proposals
“Because of this, the essence of the discussions at this meeting is that the two sides agree to increase military cooperation between the two countries, particularly their armies,” General Wijaya said.

General Wijaya also said that during the meeting Perkasa made several proposals to General Campbell related to military cooperation.

“This included joint training activities, the exchange of lecturers and instructors, as well as improving the education organised by the TNI AD as well as the Australian Defense Force”, General Wijaya said.

General Wijaya said that that General Campbell welcomed the suggestions made by Perkasa because the Australian Defence Force also hopes that cooperation between the two armies will continue to improve in the future.

Also present at the meeting was Kasad’s Head of Expert Staff Major-General Felix Hutabarat, Deputy Security Advisor Brigadier-General Djaka Budhi Utama, Deputy Assistant of Operations Brigadier-General Untung Budiharto and Indonesia’s Defence Attache in Canberra, Admiral R Teguh Isgunanto.

Translated by James Balowski of Indoleft News Service. The original title of the article was “Bersenjata Australia Sepakat Tingkatkan Kerjasama Militer”.

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West Papuan campaigners welcome UN call to halt Indonesian torture

Indonesian police torture a pro-independence West Papuan suspect. Image: West Papua Campaign/AFP

Pacific Media Watch Newsdesk

The Free West Papua Campaign has welcomed the call by the United Nation’s human rights experts for “Prompt and impartial investigations … into numerous cases of alleged killings, unlawful arrests, and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment of indigenous Papuans by the Indonesian police and military”.

Benny Wenda, chair of the United Movement for the Liberation of West Papua (ULMWP), said: “The West Papuan people are crying out for their freedom and self-determination.

“In January, we handed the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights a petition of 1.8 million signatures – 70 percent of the Indigenous West Papuan population – for an internationally supervised vote, a referendum, on independence from Indonesia. Finally, the Indonesian State’s brutal repression and genocidal killing is being recognised by the United Nations.”

READ MORE: UN human rights experts condemn human rights abuse and racism in West Papua

The statement from UN experts was sparked by the torture of a political prisoner with a snake.

The UN recognised that this incident is “symptomatic of the deeply entrenched discrimination and racism that indigenous Papuans face, including by Indonesian military and police”.

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The ongoing genocide in West Papua by Indonesia is estimated to have killed 500,000 West Papuans since 1969.

The UN statement continued:

“We urge the Government to take urgent measures to prevent the excessive use of force by police and military officials involved in law enforcement in Papua. This includes ensuring those, who have committed human rights violations against the indigenous population of Papua are held to account.

“We are also deeply concerned about what appears to be a culture of impunity and general lack of investigations into allegations of human rights violations in Papua.”

The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (UN Human Rights) is the leading UN entity on human rights. The General Assembly entrusted both the High Commissioner and her Office with a unique mandate to promote and protect all human rights for all people.

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Killings, arrests as military ‘flush out’ Mindanao environmental defenders

An international non-government organisation, The Global Witness, has reported that 48 individuals were killed in the country last year, a majority related to agribusiness. Image: Philstar

By KEN E. CAGULA in Davao City

The massive human rights violations committed against indigenous peoples or Lumads and peasants are designed to silence the opposition to the continuing operations of large-scale mining and plantations in Northern Mindanao and the rest of Caraga Region.

This was the assessment made by the environmental group Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment or Kalikasan PNE.

“The military is trying to flush out the opposition to mining and plantation interests in Northern Mindanao and Caraga region,” said Kalikasan PNE coordinator Leon Dulce.

READ MORE: Philippines had highest number of killed environmental defenders in Asia

Dulce points out that these Lumad and peasant leaders are the environmental defenders that continue to stand and oppose the large-scale mining and plantation operations in areas of Mindanao.

At present, these environmental defenders are protecting around 243,163 ha of forest and agricultural lands within their ancestral domains and farmlands against the encroachment of these extractive and destructive projects in Northern Mindanao and Caraga Region, he said.

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Hundreds of Lumad residents from Sitio Manluy-a, Panukmoan, and Decoy in Barangay Diatagon, Lianga town in Surigao del Sur fled from their homes after the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) conducted a series of artillery bombardment and harassments last month.

On January 24, two Manobo farmers identified as Randel Gallego and Emel Tejero, all residents of Km. 16, Brgy. Diatagon went missing after they were allegedly fired upon by soldiers while hauling abaca products.

Dead farmers
The families of the two farmers found their dead bodies at a military detachment six days after they were reported missing.

The 401st Infantry Brigade of the Philippine Army claimed that Gallego and Tejero were killed in a clash between soldiers and the New People’s Army (NPA) rebels.

But human rights advocates belied the military’s claim, saying that the two were unarmed civilians.

“The Lumad communities in Lianga are standing firmly against the coal and gold mining exploration and development projects attempting to grab lands and resources from their ancestral lands ensconced within the Andap River Valley Complex. For this, they are constantly being attacked by the military,” Dulce said.

These areas in Surigao del Sur are one of the largely militarised areas in Caraga region, prompting the exodus of IPs out from their lands due to the continuing presence of soldiers and paramilitary groups in their communities.

Kalikasan PNE also slammed the “illegal arrest” of Datu Jomorito Goaynon, chairperson of the Kalumbay Regional Lumad Organisation and Ireneo Udarbe, chair of Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas in Northern Mindanao Region on January 28.

The police named the two leaders as “top NPA leaders” which Kalikasan PNE said is a “repeated accusation” to justify the illegal arrest.

“Goaynon and Udarbe are stalwarts of the struggles of indigenous people and peasants against agri-industrial plantations in Northern Mindanao. They have also effectively exposed military-affiliated indigenous paramilitary groups such as the New Indigenous People’s Army Reform who have been attacking Lumad lands to pave the way for mining deals,” Dulce said.

Martial law
With the continued declaration of martial rule, Kalikasan PNE said that attacks against environmental defenders continue to worsen.

At least 28 cases of environmental-related killings in Mindanao were recorded by the group since it was first declared by President Rodrigo Duterte in May 23, 2017.

They noted the “growing trend” of killed defenders vilified as members or supporters of the NPA

“The Duterte government is trying to depict our fellow environmental defenders as rebels or terrorists to justify the militarization of their bastions of natural wealth. We demand that Goaynon and Udarbe be freed and that military troops wreaking havoc in Lianga be withdrawn as soon as possible.

“Justice for the murdered defenders must be delivered and the bloody reign of Duterte’s martial law over Mindanao must be lifted immediately,” Dulce said.

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Bangsamoro Islamic troops choose peace via historic Philippines vote

By Sofia Tomacruz in Sultan Kudarat, Mindanao

Battle-scarred they might be, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front have faced their toughest campaign yet.

Armed with nothing but a first-time vote, young troops from the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces prayed they would win the decades-old struggle for autonomy and independence through yesterday’s ballot.

More than 150,000 former combatants of the MILF are among the 2.8 million people who have registered to vote in the plebiscite, where the ratification of the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) and the creation of a new, expanded Bangsamoro region will be decided.

WATCH: Sofia Tomacruz’s video reports and live updates from Rappler

New role? MILF chairman Murad Ibrahim (left) will likely become the Bangsamoro region’s chief minister if the organic law is ratified in yesterday’s referendum. Image: Malacañang file

MILF leader Al Hajj Murad Ibrahim cast his vote for the first time in the historic referendum seeking to ratify the law that will give more autonomy to the Philippines’ Muslim minority.

The Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) is seen as the solution to the decades of separatist conflict in Mindanao, a region plagued by poverty and violent extremism, reports Arab News. More than 120,000 people have died in the conflict.

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“This is my first time to vote,” said Murad. “During the height of the war, we never thought that this would happen. But after the progress of the peace process, we see that there is light at the end of the tunnel.”

It took the leader of the MILF, formerly the biggest Muslim group in the country, only a few minutes to case his “yes” vote.

First time vote
“I am happy that at least for the first time, I have exercised my right of suffrage,” he later said, adding that his participation in the voting signals the commencement of their transition from a revolutionary into the democratic process.

Like Murad, thousands of MILF fighters, along with their families, also trooped to polling centers yesterday to take part in the voting process, many of them for the first time.

“We are hoping that with this development, we can finally achieve the aspiration of our people for peace, progress and a good life in this part of the country and in the entire country,” Murad said.

Murad said that after the plebiscite, “hopefully the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA), the transitional government, will be immediately established and we will start to organise our government structure and after the BTA, a regular government in 2022.”

Murad said that once the BOL is implemented, their priorities would be education, medical services, social services,and infrastructure, adding that education was their top priority.

“For more than 50 years of war, many of our people have not obtained education. We cannot really progress if our people are not educated,” he said.

Murad said that as long as the vote is conducted in a fair manner with no manipulation, intimidation or cheating, they are “determined to accept whatever is the result.”

Chief minister
A chief minister will head the BTA and this position will likely go to Murad.

Before he talked peace with the government, Murad was a fearsome MILF commander.

Murad’s decades of rebellion began in 1972 when he joined the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) led by former University of the Philippines professor Nur Misuari.

A group within the MILF disagreed with Nur over a peace deal with the government and broke away in 1981. This group became the MILF.

Murad became the head of MILF’s army, the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF). He commanded at least 12,000 men.

When MILF’s then-leader Hashim Salamat died in 2003, Murad took the reins.

After years of fighting government forces, the MILF began peace talks with the Arroyo and then the Aquino administration.

Signing witnessed
In 2012, Murad witnessed the signing of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro, which laid the groundwork for the BOL.

The Philippines is a predominantly Catholic country but Mindanao has a significant Muslim population.

Many regard the region as their ancestral homeland, dating back to the 13th Century when Arab traders first arrived, and over the decades various rebel groups sprang up demanding the right to self-rule.

Mindanao has seen a huge amount of violence in recent years – mainly between the army, Muslim separatists and other rebels.

The violence has left Mindanao one of the poorest regions in the Philippines.

The entire region of Mindanao is still under martial law, which was implemented in 2017 after clashes between the army and militants linked to IS.The Philippines is a predominantly Catholic country but Mindanao has a significant Muslim population.

Ancestral homeland
Many regard the region as their ancestral homeland, dating back to the 13th Century when Arab traders first arrived, and over the decades various rebel groups sprang up demanding the right to self-rule.

Mindanao has seen a huge amount of violence in recent years – mainly between the army, Muslim separatists and other rebels.

The violence has left Mindanao one of the poorest regions in the Philippines.

The entire region of Mindanao is still under martial law, which was implemented in 2017 after clashes between the army and militants linked to IS.

If a majrity of the millions of voters from Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur, Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, and Cotabato City voted “yes” include their areas in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), a second voting day will take place on February 6.

This time, in Lanao del Norte – except Iligan City – and 7 towns in North Cotabato.

If a majority of voters in all areas agree to their inclusion, the new BARMM will be comprised of the provinces of Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, Basilan, Cotabato City, 6 towns in Lanao del Norte, and 67 barangays in North Cotabato.

Article by AsiaPacificReport.nz

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Widodo wants security forces to guard all development projects in Papua

Sixteen bodies have been retrieved from the killings of workers on a Papuan infrastructure project claimed by pro-independence militants to be Indonesian soldiers. Image: Hark Arena

By Ray Jordan in Lampung, Indonesia

President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo insists that work on the Trans-Papua road project will continue despite this week’s shooting of construction workers in the Papua regency of Nduga.

Widodo is asking that all infrastructure projects and Trans-Papua construction workers always be accompanied by security personnel.

For the moment, Widodo said that the government would prioritise the evacuation of the victims of the shooting by the West Papuan Liberation Army that is regularly branded by the authorities as armed criminal “separatists”.

READ MORE: West Papua independence leader urges calm after killings

“Yes this is because there is still a process there that isn’t finished yet, we will prioritise the evacuation as quickly as possible. After that construction will continue”, Widodo told journalists at the Mahligai Agung Convention Hall at the Bandar Lampung University in Lampung City, North Sumatra.

According to The Jakarta Post, the casualties include 19 workers of state-owned construction company PT Istaka Karya, who had been assigned to build a 275 km section to connect Wamena and Mamugu as part of President Widodo’s flagship trans-Papua road project.

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One Indonesian Military (TNI) soldier was also killed.

But the West Papua National Liberation Army (WPNLA), which claimed responsibility for the attack and said 24 people had been killed, alleged the workers were in fact soldiers in disguise, according to RNZ Pacific.

Independence rallies
Last Saturday, as members of the Liberation Army held a ceremony to commemorate Papua’s independence from Dutch colonial rule on December 1, 1961, as part of many rallies across Papua, Indonesia and internationally, a worker was said to have snapped a photo of the scene.

This enraged the militants.

In Sumatra, President Widodo said that wherever construction work was being carried out in Papua, workers must be accompanied by security forces in order to provide a sense of safety.

A Papuan freelance journalist John Pakage, who was reportedly beaten by members of the Indonesian Mobile Brigade Corps and his family threatened. Image: Wenslaus

“I want to convey that wherever construction work is going on it is always accompanied by security personnel in order to truly provide security guarantees for workers who are working in the field, in the jungles, in preparing infrastructure, particularly roads in the land of Papua which will never stop, but will continue regardless,” he said.

Widodo said the government’s goal was to continue development in Papua in order to create a sense of social justice in eastern Indonesia. Widodo said he wanted all of Indonesian society to experience this development.

“This is to provide infrastructure in the land of Papua and secondly also social justice for all Indonesian people to address the discrepancies in infrastructure between Java and Papua, between the east and west, that is what we can truly pursue”, said Widodo.

Earlier, national police chief General Tito Karnavian claimed that the West Papua Liberation Army led by Egianus Kogoya numbered no more than 50 people who had around 20 firearms.

‘Diplomatic’ resolution
The Guardian reports that Benny Wenda, the chair of the United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP), said it was hard to know exactly what happened at Nduga, amid conflicting reports on the long-running tensions, and without free access for media or human rights groups.

Indonesian authorities had not responded to requests for comment from The Guardian.

Wenda told The Guardian he could not stop the liberation army but wanted to tell them the UMLWP wanted to solve the issue “diplomatically”.

“We don’t want any bloodshed, we want Indonesia to come to the international table to discuss and we can agree to a referendum That’s what our campaign is about,” he said.

Sebby Sambom, spokesman for the WPNLA, the military wing of the Free Papua Movement (OPM), said in a telephone interview that they attacked a government construction site last weekend because they believe the project is conducted by the military, according to Jawa Pos TV.

“Trans-Papua road projects are being carried out by Indonesian military and that is a risk they must bear,” Sambom said.

“We want them to know that we don’t need development, what we want is independence.”

According to Wenslaus, John Pakage, a freelance journalist who was also a former Reuters and Tabloid Jubi journalist, was beaten by members of the Indonesian Mobile Brigade Corps and his family threatened.

Detik News translated by James Balowski for the Indoleft News Service. The original title of the article was “Jokowi Minta Pekerja Trans Papua Selalu Didampingi Aparat Keamanan“.

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‘Business as usual’ vows Parkop after storming of PNG Parliament, rioting

The National Parliament of Papua New Guinea came under attack yesterday as angry police and corrections officers stormed into Parliament Haus and destroyed the main entrance.  Video: EMTV News

Pacific Media Watch Newsdesk

National District Governor Powes Parkop has pledged that it will be business as usual today in the Papua New Guinean capital of Port Moresby as normalcy has been restored in the city after yesterday’s rioting, looting and an assault on Parliament.

Parkop declared this after meeting members of the Security Force, together with National Parliament Speaker Job Pomat, Minister for Finance James Marape, Minister for Police Jelta Wong, and other ministers yesterday afternoon at Sir John Guise Stadium in Waigani, reports Loop PNG.

Security forces protested over the lack of payment of security allowances for the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) leaders summit last week by storming Parliament Haus in Waigani and causing damage.

READ MORE: Army ‘not involved’ in storming of PNG Parliament

Port Moresby looting captured by Camara Geita on Twitter yesterday. Image: PMC screenshot

This triggered off rioting in parts of the city and looting in shops.

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“Government has agreed to settle the allowances as soon as possible and we all agreed to return to duties to restore calm and normalcy to the city with immediate effect!”

Parkop said the issue of allowances for officers providing security during the APEC meeting is being resolved by the national government and relevant agencies.

He said that K10 million (NZ4.4 million) was released yesterday and was being processed to be disbursed as soon as possible.


A live feed fof shooting, looting and rioting in Port Moresby yesterday. Video: Camara Geita/Twitter

‘Purely administrative’
“This is a matter that is purely administrative.

“Schools should return to normal, shops should open and offices and business should operate as normal instantly. There is no cause for concern or worry.

“I call on everyone not to rely on rumours and fake news to cause an alarm and incite fear unnecessarily.

“The event was regrettable but it’s under control and there is no reason to be fearful anymore.”

Yesterday, business houses, schools and shops closed early due to the looting that occurred at different parts of the city, reports EMTV News.

This followed the rampage at the Parliament by frustrated Joint Security Task Force members over the non-payment of their APEC allowance.


The APEC pay dispute and why the PNG police protested. Video: EMTV News

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Hundreds of protesting PNG police move in on Parliament over pay

PNG security forces protesting in Waigani over unpaid APEC security allowances. Image: Loop PNG

By RNZ Pacific

Hundreds of Papua New Guinea police have descended on Parliament Haus in the Port Moresby suburb of Waigani demanding payments they say they are owed for providing security at last weekend’s APEC leaders summit.

RNZ Pacific’s correspondent in PNG, Melvin Levongo, said multiple police vehicles with armed police were involved.

He said police were demanding to speak with Prime Minister Peter O’Neill and APEC Minister Justin Tkatchencko about the extra allowances they were owed.

READ MORE: Reporters attacked as security forces move into Parliament Haus

Levongo said a policeman told him they were very angry at the government.

“You guys have got money to purchase Maserati cars but we are asking for our allowance, so that’s the situation currently at the moment,” he said.

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Levongo said traffic had been halted in and around Parliament Haus, and that there was no military involvement in the protest.

Photographs are circulating on social media showing damage at Parliament Haus, including broken glass windows and doors for which PNG police are said to be responsible.

Opposition Madang MP Bryan Kramer’s Facebook page shows hallways and lobbies that have been trashed and an image of startled shadow ministers whose meeting was interrupted.

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

PNG security forces on guard at Parliament Haus in Waigani today. Image: Brian Kramer FB Opposition Madang MP Bryan Kramer speaking in a live Facebook feed about today’s protest at Parliament Haus. Image: Bryan Kramer FB

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PNG governor may block Australian naval base bid on Manus

Manus Governor Charlie Benjamin … critical of Port Moresby government’s lack of consultation. Image: RNZ Pacific

By RNZ Pacific

The governor of Papua New Guinea’s Manus Province has hinted that he could obstruct Australia’s bid to build a naval port on Manus Island.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced on November 1 that his country would fund the development of a deepwater base at the old Lombrum Naval Base used during the Second World War.

The move is seen as a counter to China’s aspirations to develop the site.

READ MORE: Scott Waide: How China is several moves ahead in Port Moresby

Manus Governor Charlie Benjamin told Reuters news agency that he had not been consulted on the development and that it would have to benefit the local residents.

“I have my people living on the island and we are the ones affected,” Benjamin said.

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“The government might have the right but if we decide to put our foot down, there will be problems.”

The Manus governor has previously been critical of central government’s lack of consultation over the Australian-run refugee detention centres based on the island.

Military outpost
Manus is PNG’s northernmost and smallest province with 50,000 people and an Australian-funded navy base there could provide a military outpost for Canberra in the Pacific.

Prime Minister Morrison has said Australian vessels would be regular visitors.

RNZ Pacific’s Johnny Blades reports from APEC (Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation) that the United States will join Australia in expanding the Lombrum Naval Base on Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island.

US vice-president Mike Pence made the announcement at the APEC leader’s summit in Port Moresby yesterday.

Pence, who is representing his country at APEC in the absence of President Donald Trump, used his speech to assert US partnership with Pacific Islands and other allies in the wider region.

Without elaborating on details, he confirmed the US would partner with PNG and Australia on a joint naval base on Manus, reported Blades.

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

The newly built APEC Haus in Papua New Guinea’s capital Port Moresby which is hosting the 2018 APEC leaders summit this weekend. Image: Johnny Blades/RNZ Pacific

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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.

NEW CALEDONIA VOTE: WHAT NEXT?

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.

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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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