Paris sends forces to quell unrest in New Caledonia

Published May 18, 2024
A street blocked by debris and burnt out items is seen following overnight unrest in the Magenta district of Noumea, France’s Pacific territory of New Caledonia, on May 18, 2024. Hundreds of French security personnel tried to restore order in the Pacific island territory of New Caledonia on May 18, after a fifth night of riots, looting and unrest.—AFP
A street blocked by debris and burnt out items is seen following overnight unrest in the Magenta district of Noumea, France’s Pacific territory of New Caledonia, on May 18, 2024. Hundreds of French security personnel tried to restore order in the Pacific island territory of New Caledonia on May 18, after a fifth night of riots, looting and unrest.—AFP

NOUMEA: Areas of the Pacific territory of New Caledonia have “escaped” state control, the French government’s representative said on Friday, announcing fresh security deployments after days of deadly violence.

“Reinforcements are arriving ... to control the areas that have escaped us in recent days, where control is no longer assured,” the High Commissioner of the Republic in New Cale­donia Louis Le Franc told reporters at a briefing.

A state of emergency was imposed on the French archipelago after opposition to Paris’s plan to change voting rules there spiralled into arson, looting and violence that has left five dead and hundreds wounded.

As part of the state of emergency, about 200 of an estimated 5,000 “rioters” have been detained, French authorities have said.

One person suspected of homicide surrendered to the authorities, Le Franc said at the Friday briefing.

Earlier, he said the situation around the capital Noumea was starting to look calmer after the simmering protests turned violent on Monday.

The unrest began as French lawmakers pushed forward plans to allow those who moved to the territory at least 10 years ago to vote in local elections.

Located between Australia and Fiji, New Caledonia is one of several territories around the globe that remain part of France.

Anger over France’s plan to impose new voting rules has spiralled into the deadliest violence in four decades in the archipelago of 270,000 people, which lies 17,000 kilometres from Paris.

French Prime Minister Gabriel Attal said about 1,000 extra security forces were being sent to New Caledonia — adding to the 1,700 already present.

Extra forces began landing on Thursday at the French army-controlled La Tontouta Inter­national Airport and could be seen moving through the capital.

Published in Dawn, May 18th, 2024

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