New Caledonia: France declares state of emergency amid riots

New Caledonia: France declares state of emergency amid riots
New Caledonia: France declares state of emergency amid riots

The French government has declared a 12-day state of emergency in New Caledonia. This follows deadly riots over voting reforms unpopular with the French territory’s indigenous peoples.

The French government declared a 12-day state of emergency in the Indo-Pacific territory of New Caledonia on Wednesday after four people were killed and others wounded during riots and looting on Tuesday night.

The unrest came after French lawmakers passed a contentious voting bill, according to New Caledonia High Commissioner Louis Le Franc, who said that “a curfew and a ban on TikTok” were now in force.

“Soldiers from the armed forces have been deployed to secure the New Caledonia ports and the airport,” Prime Minister Gabriel Attal announced in Paris.

Le Franc said Attal had requested the troops.

French President Emmanuel Macron, who canceled a planned trip to Normandy on Wednesday to respond to the unrest, asked his Cabinet in a meeting later in the day to declare a state of emergency, the Elysee Palace said.

Speaking for the Cabinet, Deputy Minister for Democratic Renewal Prisca Thevenot announced the decision on Wednesday afternoon in Paris.

Thevenot described “scenes of chaos” in the territory.

Some 500 additional police officers have also been dispatched to assist the 1,800 already on site. They are expected to arrive within the next few hours, authorities said. 

French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said on Wednesday that a French gendarmerie police officer had died from wounds sustained earlier in the clashes. 

“The mobile gendarme seriously wounded by a bullet in New Caledonia has just died,” Darmanin wrote online. “Our thoughts are with his family, those close to him and his friends. Nothing, absolutely nothing, justifies violence. Order will be restored.” 

What we know about the riots

The three killed were young indigenous Kanak people, a spokesperson for New Caledonia’s President Louis Mapou said based on police information, according to the Reuters news agency.

Darmanin on Wednesday said “hundreds” of people, including police, were hurt in the latest unrest.

On Wednesday, gunshots were heard in the morning despite a curfew. Meanwhile, schools in the capital, Noumea, remained shut.

The government of the French territory, to the east of Australia, had earlier mobilized security forces and issued a 12-hour overnight curfew for Tuesday night.

Vote on changes to the New Caledonian constitution passes

The region was on the boil this week, ahead of a French National Assembly vote on changes to the New Caledonian constitution, which would enable more migrants on the island — in many cases from France — to vote.

Riots erupted after the National Assembly approved the changes to voting rules on Tuesday, local media reported.

Lawmakers in Paris voted 351 to 153 in favor of a new bill allowing French residents who have lived in the French territory for 10 years to vote in provincial elections.

Supporters of New Caledonia’s independence fear the bill will dilute the vote of the indigenous Kanak people.

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