Pacific News Minute: Renewed Unrest in New Caledonia

Nov 16, 2016

Credit Wikipedia Commons

More violence in the French Territory of New Caledonia this week...gunmen shut down a main road for more than a day, while pro and anti independence parties issued very different proposals to address the unrest. We have more from Neal Conan in the Pacific News Minute.

On Monday, what was reported as a small but heavily armed group of young men fired shots and threw rocks on the main road that runs south from the capital, Noumea.  Police arrived with helicopters and armored cars, but retreated amid more gunfire and explosions.  The road reopened yesterday.

So far, no arrests and no injuries are reported. Two weeks ago, though, five police offers were hit by gunfire in the same area, near the towns of Saint Louis and Mont Dore. That time, gunmen closed the road for three days behind a barricade of stolen cars. The trigger was the death of a prison escapee, shot by police when he allegedly tried to run over an officer in a stolen car.

Pro-Independence parties sent an open letter that blamed the problems on imbalances in society caused by colonialism, and warned that repressive tactics could quickly escalate. They propose the appointment of a multi disciplinary group composed of specialists and customary leaders. The anti-independence Party called for military forces to disarm the gunmen. It's letter described the disruptions as unacceptable and said they would not be tolerated anywhere else in France.

France, of course, remains in a state of emergency a year after terrorist attacks in Paris.  There is no indication that violence in far off New Caledonia has become a major concern, but the government did announce plans to send 53 additional police officers in February.