Seventh death in New Caledonia, in uncertainty after Macron’s visit

A seventh person was killed on Friday in New Caledonia, a territory still in uncertainty the day after a visit by French President Emmanuel Macron, who promised that the electoral reform contested by the separatists would “not pass in force”.

The 48-year-old man was killed by a police officer, announced Nouméa prosecutor Yves Dupas. While they were driving in Dumbéa, north of Nouméa, two police officers were “physically attacked by a group of around fifteen individuals” and one of them used his service weapon “to get out of this physical altercation,” he explained.

Since the start of the riots, the violence had already left six dead: two gendarmes, including one in an accidental shooting, three Kanaks (natives) and a Caldoche (Caledonian of European origin).

None, apart from the accidental death, could be attributed until then to the police.

The police officer, “on whom traces of blows were noted”, was placed in police custody and the prosecution opened an investigation into intentional homicide by a person holding public authority.

During his visit on Thursday, Emmanuel Macron met loyalists, in favor of expanding the electorate for the provincial elections, and separatists, who believe that this measure will reduce their weight.

It was the adoption of this bill by the senators and then the deputies which ignited the powder and triggered a wave of violence that the island had not seen for four decades.

Macron calls for “immediate” lifting of blockades

“I am committed to ensuring that this reform does not pass through force,” promised Emmanuel Macron during his trip.

But he asked for “the resumption of dialogue with a view to a global agreement” to grant the right to vote to more voters by the end of June, so that it “can then be submitted to the vote of Caledonians”.

Before this deadline, the “objective is to restore order in the days to come,” repeated the French president.

In an interview with local media on Friday, he demanded “immediately” “the lifting of all blockades”, the “points of violence” and asked “that there be a clear call for these liftings” from notably separatists from the Kanak and Socialist National Liberation Front (FLNKS) or the Field Action Coordination Cell (CCAT), the collective accused by the government of leading the riots.

Since they began on May 13, the riots have caused considerable damage in the French territory of the South Pacific.

The state of emergency established on May 16 continues to prevail there: nighttime curfew, ban on gatherings, transport of weapons and sale of alcohol, ban on the TikTok application.

Waiting for instructions

Blockades set up by the rioters remain in place.

On the east coast of Grande Terre, the crossroads between the road which crosses the center and the one which runs along the ocean is thus blocked to all vehicles, except those of emergency.

In the Montravel district of Nouméa, activists were waiting on Friday for an official communication from the FLNKS on “the directives” for the continuation of the movement.

“We stand ready to continue the mobilization since apparently the President of the Republic does not want to listen to us,” Yamel, an activist opposed to electoral reform, explained to AFP.

“As long as there is no independence, there will be no security,” warned a 51-year-old activist manning a roadblock in a northern district of Nouméa, on condition of anonymity.

“We are all waiting for the FLNKS decision,” said one of the loyalist leaders, Sonia Backès, on RRB radio. “An agreement is possible if everyone is in good faith,” said the former government secretary of state, warning that a return to calm would take time.

Repatriation flights

Life is slowly returning to the archipelago, conquered and colonized in the 19th century.e century.

“Clearing operations are progressing” on the roads and “around a hundred roadblocks have been neutralized,” reported the High Commission of the Republic.

The Bank of New Caledonia has announced the reopening of five of its 18 branches. Three of them were set on fire.

Some 3,000 police officers and gendarmes participate in securing the archipelago, “supported by more than 130 personnel from the Raid and the GIGN”, the elite police and gendarmerie units, according to the High Commission.

Since the start of the crisis, more than 350 people have been arrested and “60 judicial police officers are working tirelessly to investigate ongoing investigations,” he said.

La Tontouta airport has been closed to commercial flights since May 14 and will be closed until Tuesday, announced the Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

“There is no reopening planned because […] the priority objective is to allow the reception of police reinforcements, vehicles, freight,” argued the Minister Delegate for Overseas Territories, Marie Guévenoux. In addition, the transportation of travelers to the airport is compromised by the maintenance of certain roadblocks, she added.

Neighboring countries are working to find ways to evacuate their nationals.

The Vanuatu government said it was organizing the repatriation of some 160 students during the day on Friday. According to images from the VBTC television channel, it was a French military plane which carried out the first flight.

New Zealand announced the arrival of 50 of its nationals in Auckland on Friday.

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