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New Caledonia after the referendum “Sooner or later, we will have independence”

A referendum was organized on November 4 in New Caledonia. Voters were asked to answer the question, “Do you want New Caledonia to become a fully sovereign and independent country?” The higher circles announced a landslide No vote against independence. Some polls had even predicted a hefty 75% No vote. But finally, only 56.4% out of the 141,099 voters put a No ballot slip in the box.

And yet, no effort had been spared to turn this referendum into a plebiscite in favour of the colonial status of the archipelago. The Kanak people, who have inhabited the islands for over 3,000 years, have gradually been reduced to a minority in their own country.

Kanaky has been a French colony since 1853, known under the name of New Caledonia and has witnessed waves upon waves of European populations, colonists, policemen and other such settling on its soil. Now, the Kanaks are a mere 39% of the population. As to the conditions of the November 4th referendum, no less than 20,000 Kanak voters had deliberately been struck off the voting lists.

Such a referendum, where the colonized people, reduced to a minority in their own country, were asked a question about their future and put on the same level with the colonists, had induced several organizations — such as the Trade Union of Kanak Workers and Exploited (USTKE) and the Workers Party (PT) — not to recognize it as a genuine self-determination referendum.

Despite all the obstacles placed in their path by the authorities, results show the extreme polarisation on both sides. “It comes as no surprise that the territories inhabited by a majority of Kanaks – the North province and the Loyaute Islands – voted for independence while a few municipalities, among which the government seat of Noumea, opted for France (…) Most of the municipalities gave an overwhelming vote in one sense or in the other.” (Le Figaro – November 4).

To say it clearer, in the places where the colonised Kanak people are a majority, they gave an overwhelming majority to the vote for independence, and where it is the European populations who are a majority – especially in Noumea – they voted to keep the status quo. So, when Macron declared that “as the chief of state he felt proud that the majority of the Caledonians had chosen France”, he was speaking on behalf of the European population and not of the Kanak people.

Because, what the Kanak people expressed in a large majority – though in a stunted vote – was their determination to have their national aspirations, which coincide with their social ones, satisfied.

In the region of the Thio nickel mines, devastated by job-shedding, the correspondent of Le Monde cites “an elder” who states: “The Europeans have to recognize that this is our country, that sooner or later, we will have independence”. To this, another former miner – though he is of “Caldoche”[1] descent – adds: “People here demand their rights. This is not France, this is Caledonia. So, yes, I voted for independence because that is their

right.”

per Dominique Ferre

(La Tribune des Travailleurs, France)

[1] The “Caldoche” are the offspring of European populations that settled in New Caledonia a long time ago and have lived there ever since.

 

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