Violence in French Pacific territory of New Caledonia turns deadly


At least three people are dead in the South Pacific islands of New Caledonia after three consecutive days of rioting in the French territory.

The violence was sparked by a bill under debate in the French parliament that would allow French-born residents who have lived in New Caledonia for 10 years to vote in local elections.

Leaders of the island’s pro-independence movement say the measure would dilute the voting power of the Indigenous Kanak people.

Scores of homes and businesses have been looted and burned in the capital Noumea, despite the increased presence of security forces.

Authorities have imposed a nighttime curfew and a ban on public gatherings, while at least 130 people have been arrested. The violence has also prompted the closure of schools and businesses, as well as the island’s airport.

French President Emmanuel Macron convened an emergency meeting of key ministers in Paris Wednesday to address the situation in New Caledonia. He called for an end to the violence in a letter to the island’s leaders, and offered to hold talks with both pro- and anti-independence factions before the election reform bill comes up for a final vote in a special session of both houses of the French parliament next month.

The measure was approved Wednesday by France’s National Assembly by a vote of 351-153.

Pro-independence leader Daniel Goa condemned the looting Tuesday and called for calm. But he said the situation “reveals the determination of our young people to no longer let France rule them.”

France agreed in 1998 to grant New Caledonia more political power and autonomy and to hold three referendums over the island’s status. Voters have rejected independence in all three referendums.__VOA News