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  • New Caledonia
  • David Chappell

Reviews of Fiji and Papua New Guinea are not included in this issue.

For a nonelection year, 2003 proved to be an eventful one in New Caledonia. This was the 150 th anniversary of French annexation and also the fifth year of the landmark Noumea Accord peace agreement between pro-independence Kanak and loyalist French residents and their respective allies. French President Jacques Chirac visited, as did other metropolitan officials, to give assurances of State support for the ongoing processes of economic development and devolution of governing powers to the territory over the next fifteen years, and to encourage further negotiations to resolve lingering issues. It was a time to reflect on the results of the accord so far and to prepare for the 2004 provincial elections. The role of New Caledonia and other French Pacific territories as vehicles for French initiatives in the region, and the issue of Polynesian migration from Wallis and Futuna—and the consequent Kanak-Wallisian violence in St Louis—generated further debate, as did the location of an important Kanak identity symbol in Noumea, the capital.

In March, Elie Poigoune, a Kanak teacher who is president of the New Caledonia chapter of the League of the Rights of Man ( LDH), traveled to Paris to inform the parent organization (equivalent to the American Civil Liberties Union) about the status of New Caledonia. LDH lawyers had defended Poigoune and other anticolonial activists in the 1970 s, and one of them, Jean-Jacques de Félice, was on hand to welcome his old comrade. Poigoune outlined the division of his country between the Kanak-ruled Northern Province and the European-ruled South, and told of the many challenges presented by multinational nickel mining projects in both provinces. The LDH-NC had joined the South's local opposition to the Goro/Prony arrangement with Inco of Canada, because of the low royalty payments it will pay to the province and territory (only 10 percent compared to the 51 percent ownership of the North in its partnership with Falconbridge of Canada); the hiring of foreign workers; and the lack of consultation with local chiefs and environmentalists. Poigoune also raised the issues of the planned cohabitation between Kanak custom and French law, the need for further development in education and health care for the disadvantaged, and the limited freedom of expression available in the local press and other media. Despite the transfer of some powers to the territory, key problems remained, such as the creation of a local citizenship; identity issues such as a name for the country (he proposed Kanaky New Caledonia); the underdeveloped role of the new Customary Senate; and the growing gap between rich and poor—including most Kanak. The LDH-NC recommended that Kanak continue the struggle for decolonization, because [End Page 383] the Noumea Accord recognized their identity but did not guarantee their independence; and that non-Kanak Caledonians stop fearing the Kanak, try to understand Kanak culture better, and seek an equilibrium between the two communities in order to build a common destiny ( LDH-NC 2003).

Rock Wamytan, former president of the Front de Libération Nationale Kanak et Socialiste ( FLNKS) and current Minister of Cultural Affairs in the territorial executive, also traveled to Paris in March, to speak with Brigitte Girardin, the French Minister for Overseas Departments and Territories. He asked for more direct intervention by the French State to "unblock" the Noumea Accord process on several fronts, because the opposing camps were not communicating constructively. More progress was needed in land reform to help the colonially dispossessed Kanak, he said, and he wondered if it would be necessary to turn to the United Nations or Ligue des Droits de l'Homme for help. He also asked that the electorate issue be resolved, instead of waiting until 2008 to limit voters on territorial issues to long-term residents. He admitted that the FLNKS, which still lacked a president to replace him, would have to elect one soon in order to mobilize for the May2004 provincial elections. Wamytan then traveled on to Canada to meet with Inco and Falconbridge ( NC 8 March 2003 ).

In early May, the Noumea daily, Les Nouvelles...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1527-9464
Print ISSN
1043-898X
Pages
pp. 383-393
Launched on MUSE
2004-08-31
Open Access
No
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