Pacific civil society groups condemn ‘heavy-handed’ French crackdown over Kanaky unrest

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The shrine at Uvanu in northern New Caledonia where a ceremony was held this weekend to mark the anniversary of the execution of 10 Kanaks resisting French colonial rule in 1868
The shrine at Uvanu in northern New Caledonia where a ceremony was held this weekend to mark the anniversary of the execution of 10 Kanaks resisting French colonial rule in 1868. Image: @aaronhm988/APR

David Robie also blogs at Café Pacific

From our Asia Pacific Report

Pacific civil society and solidarity groups today stepped up their pressure on the French government, accusing it of a “heavy-handed” crackdown on indigenous Kanak protest in New Caledonia, comparing it to Indonesian security forces crushing West Papuan dissent.

A state of emergency was declared last week, at least six people have been killed — four of them indigenous Kanaks — and more than 200 people have been arrested after rioting in the capital Nouméa followed independence protests over controversial electoral changes

In Sydney, the Australia West Papua Association declared it was standing in solidarity with the Kanak people in their self-determination struggle against colonialism.

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“New Caledonia is a colony of France. It’s on the UN list of non-self-governing territories,” said Joe Collins of AWPA in a statement.

“Like all colonial powers anywhere in the world, the first response to what started as peaceful protests is to send in more troops, declare a state of emergency and of course accuse a foreign power of fermenting unrest,” Collins said.

He was referring to the south Caucasus republic of Azerbaijan, which Paris has accused of distributing “anti-France propaganda” on social media about the riots, a claim denied by the Azeri government.

“In fact, the unrest is being caused by France itself,” Collins added.

France ‘should listen’
He said France should listen to the Kanak people.

In Port Vila, the international office of the United Liberation Movement of West Papua (ULMWP) issued a statement saying that West Papuans supported the Kanak and Socialist National Liberation Front (FLNKS) in “opposing the French colonial project”.

“Your tireless pursuit of self-determination for Kanaky people sets a profound example for West Papua,” said the statement signed by executive secretary Markus Haluk.

Part of the PRNGO statement on the Kanaky New Caledonia protests
Part of the PRNGO statement on the Kanaky New Caledonia protests . . . call for UN and Pacific intervention. Image: APR screenshot

In Suva, the Pacific Regional Non-Governmental Organisations (PRNGOs) called for “calm and peace” blaming the unrest on the French government’s insistence on proceeding with proposed constitutional changes “expressly rejected by pro-independence groups”.

The alliance also reaffirmed its solidarity with the people of Kanaky New Caledonia in their ongoing peaceful quest for self-determination and condemned President Emmanuel Macron’ government for its “poorly hidden agenda of prolonging colonial control” over the Pacific territory.

“Growing frustration, especially among Kanak youth, at what is seen locally as yet another French betrayal of the Kanaky people and other local communities seeking peaceful transition, has since erupted in riots and violence in Noumea and other regions,” the PRNGOs statement said.

The alliance called on the United Nations and Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) leaders to send a neutral mission to oversee and mediate dialogue over the Nouméa Accords of 1998 and political process.

In Aotearoa New Zealand, Kia Mua declared it was “watching with grave concern” the Macron government’s attempts to “derail the process for decolonisation and usurp the Nouméa Accords”.

It also called for the “de-escalation of the militarised French response to Kanak dissent and an end to the state of emergency”.

‘Devastating nuclearism, militarism’
For more than 300 years, “Te Moananui a Kiwa [Pacific Ocean] has been subjected to European colonialism, the criminality of which is obscured and hidden by Western presumptions of righteousness and legitimacy.”

The devastating effects of “nuclearism, militarism, extraction and economic globalisation on Indigenous culture and fragile ecosystems in the Pacific are an extension of that colonialism and must be halted”.

The Oceanian Independence Movement (OIM) demanded an immediate investigation “to provide full transparency into the deaths linked to the uprising in recent days”.

It called on indigenous people to be “extra vigilant” in the face of the state of emergency and and to record examples of “behaviour that harm your physical and moral integrity”.

The MOI said it supported the pro-independence CCAT (activist field groups) and blamed the upheaval on the “racist, colonialist, provocative and humiliating remarks” towards Kanaks by rightwing French politicians such as Southern provincial president Sonia Backés and Générations NC deputy in the National Assembly Nicolas Metzdorf.

Constitutional rules
The French National Assembly last week passed a bill changing the constutional rules for local provincial elections in New Caledonia, allowing French residents who have lived there for 10 years to vote.

This change to the electoral reform is against the terms of the 1998 Noumea Accord. That pact had agreed that only the indigenous Kanak people and long-term residents prior to 1998 would be eligible to vote in provincial ballots and local referendums.

The bill has yet to be ratified by Congress, a combined sitting of the Senate and National Assembly. The change would add an additional 25,000 non-indigenous voters to take part in local elections, dramatically changing the electoral demographics in New Caledonia to the disadvantage of indigenous Kanaks who make up 42 percent of the 270,000 population.

Yesterday, in the far north of Kanaky New Caledonia’s main island of Grande Terre, a group gathered to honour 10 Kanaks who were executed by guillotine on 18 May 1868. They had resisted the harsh colonial regime of Governor Guillan.

14 COMMENTS

    • That is fundamentally correct. The intent of France, the colonial power, is to “legitimize” its rule by pouring French immigrants into New Caledonia and giving them voting rights. A strategy that worked more or less for the colonialist regime in New Zealand, which is now wanting to take matters to the next level by removing communal voting rights (the Maori seats) and repudiating the solemn treaty which it entered into with Maori183 years ago.
      So there are parallels between the cases of New Zealand and New Caledonia, and just as there has been a strong response from the indigenous population of Kanaky to the machinations of the French government, so there will be a vigorous response from tangata motu to the evil designs of the colonialist administration in Wellington.
      Mr Luxon should take note of what may await him if he decides to follow the lead of French colonialism.

      • La Nouvelle Calédonie is part of the French Republic with representatives in the French parliament. It is not legally a colony and Kanaks are as French as Parisians. Parisians who move to NC are not immigrants in their own country. Your parallels with NZ are not sound. The Kanaks do not have te Tiriti.

        • It does not matter how France chooses to structure its empire as “parts of the French Republic with representatives in the French parliament”. Whether we are talking about Algeria, Indo-China or Kanaky they are colonized countries with dispossessed indigenous populations. The Algerians and Vietnamese managed to throw off the French yoke. The Kanaks will struggle to do so but they have every right to try. Parisians and apologists of French colonialism may say with Gallic gall that “Kanaks are as French as Parisians. Parisians who move to NC are not immigrants in their own country” but for the Kanaks that is just adding insult to injury.

        • Ennius May 20, 2024 at 10:14 pm
          “La Nouvelle Calédonie is part of the French Republic….”

          Only in the fetid imagination of the most avid Western imperialists

    • NO NATS will get on board so they can sneak through tax rises and other charges to pay for the borrowing they will have to pay for landlord tax cuts and money wasted for all the projects they have cut ,like the ferries and rail .When every one wakes up we will be a suburb of Mumbia.So we wont need that free trade deal as we will be owned by them already

    • Nowadays those blackbirded to Australia or NZ are lucky if they break even after paying for the moldy caravans their employers so kindly accommodate them in, but at least they usually don’t die.

  1. The French imperialists have a nasty history of using heavy handed methods to maintain direct colonial occupation and rule of their overseas territories.

    After the Vietminh liberation forces drove out the Japanese imperialists, the French imperialists who had been ousted by the Japanese imposed a puppet regime to reassert their colonial rule. French jeeps towing mobile guillotines went from town to town to publicly execute anti-imperialist leaders.

    ABOUT EXHIBIT GUILLOTINE IN WAR REMNANTS MUSEUM

    Opening hours: 7:30AM to 5:30PM. Open all days

    VIEENG
    War Remnants Museum

    https://baotangchungtichchientranh.vn/viet-ve-hien-vat-chiec-may-chem-tai-bao-tang-chung-tich-chien-tranh/53/?language=en

    …. The Straits Times (Singapore) newspapers on July 24, 1959 published a report of the scene of 1,000 people witnessing the execution in Saigon. Morning Newspapers (Saigon) on October 12,1959 posted a photo of the guillotine with the caption: “This is a guillotine that beheaded the Communist Vo Song Nhon, immediately after the court pronounced sentence. Three days later, the newspapers reported “According to a judgment of an absence trial by the Special Military Court on October 2, Nguyen Van Lep, or Tu Ut Lep, a Viet Cong, was sentenced to a criminal penalty. A week ago, Lev was caught by the police in a forest in Tay Ninh. The death sentence was executed… The head and the livers of the offender under the death penalty were displayed in front of the people”.
    The government of Ngo Dinh Diem organized armed force with anti-Communist mission to return to the localities. After that, Robert McNamara; former US Secretary of Defense recorded in his memoir “Looking back on the past – tragedy and lessons about Vietnam” as follows: “On May 6,1959, Diem signed Law 10/59. Ironically, he returned with the way of the French colonial masters who implemented, opened the era of death by beheading, Diem’s subordinates went to the countryside with mobile guillotines and the program to quest the communists”….
    …..Today, the guillotine that once killed patriots and revolutionary soldiers is being stored and displayed at the Ho Chi Minh City War Remnants Museum.

    P.S. After the French were forced out of Vietnam after their defeat at Dien Bien Phu, the US imperialists sought to impose their own version of repressive neo-colonial rule over Vietnam, (with the same result).

    French imperialist leader Emmanuel Macron has sent over 3,000 French troops to New Caledonia to quell the protests. Macron is about to learn the same harsh lesson as his colonial predecessors – Repression fuels resistance.

    Macron says French troops will stay in New Caledonia ‘as long as necessary’
    France’s president is visiting the Pacific territory where electoral reform plans have fuelled the worst unrest in more than 30 years

    https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2024/5/23/macron-says-french-troops-will-stay-in-new-caledonia-as-long-as-necessary#

    About 3,000 soldiers have been sent from Paris since the violence began and could stay until the Olympic Games in Paris, which begin on July 26, Macron said. Six people, including three young Kanaks, have been killed and about 280 people arrested since the protests broke out and a state of emergency was declared.

  2. The French imperialists have a nasty history of using heavy handed methods to maintain direct colonial occupation and rule of their overseas conquests.

    After the Vietminh liberation forces drove out the Japanese imperialists, the French imperialists who had been ousted by the Japanese imposed a puppet regime to reassert their colonial rule. French jeeps towing mobile guillotines went from town to town to publicly execute anti-imperialist leaders.

    ABOUT EXHIBIT GUILLOTINE IN WAR REMNANTS MUSEUM

    Opening hours: 7:30AM to 5:30PM. Open all days

    VIEENG
    War Remnants Museum

    https://baotangchungtichchientranh.vn/viet-ve-hien-vat-chiec-may-chem-tai-bao-tang-chung-tich-chien-tranh/53/?language=en

    …. The Straits Times (Singapore) newspapers on July 24, 1959 published a report of the scene of 1,000 people witnessing the execution in Saigon. Morning Newspapers (Saigon) on October 12,1959 posted a photo of the guillotine with the caption: “This is a guillotine that beheaded the Communist Vo Song Nhon, immediately after the court pronounced sentence. Three days later, the newspapers reported “According to a judgment of an absence trial by the Special Military Court on October 2, Nguyen Van Lep, or Tu Ut Lep, a Viet Cong, was sentenced to a criminal penalty. A week ago, Lev was caught by the police in a forest in Tay Ninh. The death sentence was executed… The head and the livers of the offender under the death penalty were displayed in front of the people”.
    The government of Ngo Dinh Diem organized armed force with anti-Communist mission to return to the localities. After that, Robert McNamara; former US Secretary of Defense recorded in his memoir “Looking back on the past – tragedy and lessons about Vietnam” as follows: “On May 6,1959, Diem signed Law 10/59. Ironically, he returned with the way of the French colonial masters who implemented, opened the era of death by beheading, Diem’s subordinates went to the countryside with mobile guillotines and the program to quest the communists”….
    …..Today, the guillotine that once killed patriots and revolutionary soldiers is being stored and displayed at the Ho Chi Minh City War Remnants Museum.

    P.S. After the French were forced out of Vietnam after their defeat at Dien Bien Phu, the US imperialists sought to impose their own version of repressive neo-colonial rule over Vietnam, (with the same result).

    French imperialist leader Emmanuel Macron has sent over 3,000 French troops to New Caledonia to quell the protests. Macron is about to learn the same harsh lesson as his colonial predecessors – Repression fuels resistance.

    Macron says French troops will stay in New Caledonia ‘as long as necessary’
    France’s president is visiting the Pacific territory where electoral reform plans have fuelled the worst unrest in more than 30 years

    https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2024/5/23/macron-says-french-troops-will-stay-in-new-caledonia-as-long-as-necessary#

    About 3,000 soldiers have been sent from Paris since the violence began and could stay until the Olympic Games in Paris, which begin on July 26, Macron said. Six people, including three young Kanaks, have been killed and about 280 people arrested since the protests broke out and a state of emergency was declared.

  3. Perhaps the French should just leave them to it,Im sure if they do there will be no violence,tribalism will be put aside.

    • What exactly are you saying here Bob, you think it is ok for the French to continue to treat the Kanaky people with disdain as they have for many a year. Presumably you think what happened here in Aotearoa was ok, ‘oh this land looks empty lets grab it for us….’ time and time and time again!

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