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26 Jun 2024 6:36
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  •   Home > News > Politics

    French government to lift New Caledonia's state of emergency in bid to ease tensions on riot-hit island

    A state of emergency declared in New Caledonia following riots that have left seven people and hundreds arrested is expected to end on Tuesday morning.


    A state of emergency declared in New Caledonia following an outbreak of deadly riots is expected to end at 5am on Tuesday, local time, but an overnight curfew will remain for the time being.

    France's Elysée Palace revealed the end of the state of emergency in a statement on Monday.

    Seven people have been killed, hundreds arrested and large numbers of buildings and cars have been destroyed in the French territory since the riots began on May 13.

    And on Friday, a policeman shot and killed a protester on the Pacific island a day after the French president visited in a bid to ease tensions.

    The riots broke out after the French government announced it wanted to grant residents who had lived in New Caledonia for at least 10 years the right to vote in provincial elections.

    The proposed changes have not yet been made law, but French President Emmanuel Macron has said an agreement on the matter must be reached by June.

    Currently, the only people allowed to vote in provincial elections are people who lived in New Caledonia before 1998 and their children.

    The voting rule was brought in under the 1998 Nouméa Accord in an attempt to give the Indigenous Kanak population more representation.

    Kanaks currently make up about 40 per cent of the population in the territory.

    Mr Macron's decision not to renew the state of emergency declaration illustrated Paris' desire to start the process of de-escalation and re-establish conditions for dialogue, the statement from the Elysée Palace added.

    End of state of emergency set to open negotiations

    New Caledonia's main pro-independence political coalition, FLNKS (Kanak and Socialist National Liberation Front) issued a statement on Saturday saying the priority was easing tensions and the only viable solution was a "political and non-repressive solution".

    Lifting the state of emergency was intended to allow FLNKS to meet, the French statement said.

    In an attempt to ease tensions, France has sent thousands of gendarmes and other security personnel to the island.

    On Saturday, it was announced an extra 480 gendarmes would be sent to New Caledonia, bringing the number of French security forces there to about 3,500.

    Mr Macron "recalls that the lifting of the roadblocks is the necessary condition for the opening of concrete and serious negotiations," the statement from the Elysée Palace added.

    Christian Tein of the Field Action Coordination Cell (CCAT), which organised the roadblocks that are impeding movement and the supply of food and medicine across the island, said on Friday the group remained "mobilised, we maintain the resistance in our neighbourhoods, in a structured, organised way".

    New Caledonia's top French official, High Commissioner Louis Le Franc said on Monday that an evening and overnight curfew will remain in place.

    Travel will be banned between 6pm and 6am local time except for civil servants, medical professionals and other essential workers on night shifts and health emergencies.

    New Caledonia's ban on public gatherings, transport and carrying of weapons and sale of alcohol will also remain in place, Mr Le Franc said.

    The operator of the international airport in New Caledonia's capital of Nouméa has announced it will remain closed until June 2.

    Last Tuesday, more than 100 Australians and other tourists were evacuated on military transport planes from Nouméa.

    ABC News has contacted the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade for comment.

    ABC/wires

    © 2024 ABC Australian Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved

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