New Caledonia says the situation is “calmer” after the imposition of the state of emergency | Politics News

Some 1,000 security personnel have arrived from France to deal with the worst unrest in the territory since the 1980s.

Authorities in New Caledonia have described the situation in the French Pacific territory as “calmer” after Paris declared a state of emergency in response to violence that erupted Monday night over plans to change provincial travel rules. vote.

The New Caledonia high commission official, who represents the French state, said in a statement on Friday that unrest in the provincial capital, Noumea, had subsided as hundreds of security reinforcements arrived from Paris.

“For the first time since Monday, the situation is calmer and more peaceful in greater Noumea,” the commission said in a statement.

However, fires broke out overnight at a school and two businesses, he added.

A resident talks to a motorist at a temporary barricade in his neighborhood of Noumea, as the city remains in suspense (Theo Rouby/AFP)

Anger has been boiling for weeks over French plans to extend the vote in New Caledonia to foreigners who have lived on the island for 10 years or more, in an easing of electoral restrictions agreed after an earlier period of political unrest in the 1980s.

The indigenous Kanak population, which represents about 40 percent of the population, fears that the measure, adopted by the National Assembly in Paris on Wednesday, will dilute their vote and political influence.

Around 1,000 additional security personnel are expected in New Caledonia, adding to the 1,700 already there, while authorities have said they will push for “the harshest penalties for rioters and looters”. Five people suspected of organizing the riots, which saw roads blocked, businesses set on fire and looted, were placed under house arrest on Thursday.

At least five people have died since violence broke out on Monday, after a second police officer was killed on Thursday. Three civilians have also died, all of them Kanaks, and hundreds of people have been injured.

The violence is the worst in the territory in more than 30 years and comes after three failed referendums on independence that were part of previous political agreements to ensure stability. The last referendum, held in December 2021, was boycotted by Kanak independence groups because it took place during the COVID-19 pandemic and turnout was only 44 percent.

Members of the Marseille Naval Fire Battalion climbing the stairs to board a plane.  They wear blue uniforms with the inscription
Some 1,000 more security personnel have been sent from France to help deal with unrest in New Caledonia (Manon Cruz/Reuters)

Independence remains a popular cause in the territory, which lies between Australia and Fiji and was colonized by the French in the late 19th century.

The state of emergency, which includes a nighttime curfew and a ban on gatherings, will remain in effect for 12 days.

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