Within two months of the 3 th referendum that the French State decided to organize on December 12, the atmosphere on the Rock is the tension between all of the independence movement calling for its postponement in 2022 and the forces called ” loyalists ”demanding its maintenance against the background of a government position that has remained unchanged for the moment.
After eighteen months of a “ covid-free ” situation throughout the Kanak Territory at the cost of very strict measures accepted by all (isolation of Grande Terre and the islands, restriction of inter-island movement and entry, compulsory fortnight ), the delta variant of the pandemic was invited to the Territory triggering a terrible wave of contamination with more than 250 deaths in a few weeks (which would be equivalent to tens of thousands of deaths for hexagonal France !) including more than 50 % concerning the Kanak community and more than 25% the Oceanian community, against a background of fairly widespread comorbidity (overweight, diabetes, etc.).
Macron, supporter of maintaining in France
Faced with this health disaster affecting the different populations of the Territory very unequally, the current government led by Louis Mapou, an important figure in the Uni-Palika trend of the FLNKS has taken measures that are both reasoned and very strong (barrier gestures, wearing a mask , vaccination obligation, health pass, confinement) showing the sense of responsibility on the part of Kanak leaders, and obtaining the almost unanimous agreement of all political currents, including those opposed to the Congress of New Caledonia.
In addition, the Melanesian and Polynesian communities in pain demonstrate perfect obedience to the burial restrictions, including by accepting provisional burials near Nouméa without being able to accompany their relatives to their mound and / or island of origin, and by renouncing temporarily to respect their customary long mourning rituals requiring the displacement of entire tribes.
This humanly results in a virtual impossibility of having the head and the energy to organize a referendum electoral campaign ; hence the unanimity of the independence camp (all the tendencies of the FLNKS, as well as all the other components – MNSK, PT, USTKE, Dynamic Sud – demanding a postponement of the referendum in 2022, the deadline provided for by the Nouméa Accords being before October 2022.
At the same time, the forces attached to the maintenance of the Territory in the French Republic, gathered in “ the Voices of the Non ”, are braced almost unanimously on the date envisaged having perfectly understood that, for them, the campaign is almost done. all by itself with an emphasis on exceptional – and real ! – that the French government is putting in place to deal with the pandemic and its consequences (massive health reserve coming from mainland France, transfer of patients, aid to companies and staff) proving in advance all the interest of staying ” in France ” for the future.
And some of their leaders add to the need to finally ” purge ” the Nouméa Accords which have only lasted too long, just like Senator Pierre Frogier, former companion of Pierre Maresca, former pro-OAS blackfoot (today ‘hui deceased), of grim memory at the time of the Lafleur militias, demanding more commitment from the French state. This same Frogier is one of the proponents of a proposal to give increased autonomy to the 3 current Provinces in the event of victory of the No to independence as a pledge given to the separatists, while struggling to hide the dangerous partition project that would result with a Southern Province gathering 75 % of the population of the Territory (and the largest Kanak population too) as well as 75 % of the local economy !
A new and terrible ordeal for the Kanak people
In terms of discourse, the French government is completely in its so-called neutrality in the strict application of the Nouméa Accords of 1998. But, in fact, insidiously, it clearly affirms itself in favor of maintaining in France (” La France would be less beautiful without New Caledonia ! ”, says Macron) having produced a document on the“ Consequences of Yes and No », Totally unbalanced between the advantages of the No and the risks of the Yes. And also in the great Indo-Pacific Axis project dear to Macron since 2017, and recently ridiculed by the Australian choice of US nuclear submarines, New Caledonia is a centerpiece against the backdrop of China’s advance in number of newly independent Pacific states.
And Paul Néaoutyne, signatory of the Nouméa Accords, former right-hand man of Jean-Marie Tjibaou and president of the North Province, is right to invoke respect for the word given because, in 2019, Edouard Philippe himself had also made the proposal for a referendum in September 2022, after the presidential and national legislative deadlines to avoid any interference.
Let us remember the attack on Ouvéa cave in 1988 as part of a Chirac-Mitterrand standoff between the two presidential rounds ! But the Castex government changed the situation, preferring to ask its overseas minister, Sébastien Lecornu, to organize “ Léprédour meetings ” (named after a Caledonian islet in front of Boulouparis, property of the High Commission, nicknamed “ Île du Haussaire ”), in isolation with selected guests rather than remaining faithful to the Committees of regular signatories in Matignon.
Certainly it is the prerogative of the government to fix the date of the referendum, but, for months and well before the viral wave, the independence camp has made known its preference for 2022. Today, already 25 separatist municipalities refuse to organize the December 12 ballot. In addition, internationalizing the problem, the Ambassador of Papua New Guinea to the UN solemnly comes, on behalf of the Spearhead group of South Pacific States to ask the French government for a postponement in the name of the situation. current exceptional sanitary conditions in the Territory.
Boycott of the referendum
Yes, the old boycotts decided by the Kanaks bring back painful moments ! But each time, did they have a choice in the face of successive betrayals of the word given and authentically neocolonial projects ? The ” loyalists ” have a nice game to try to scare the evocation of these boycotts by predicting already dire tomorrow in the event of results distorted by the Kanak non-participation, even going so far as to ask for the application of the results of the 2 e referendum because of the impossibility of holding the 3 rd because of the Kanaks !
So those who risk causing future unrest are those, including the French government, who refuse to postpone the referendum to 2022, if only out of respect for the mourning custom of the Kanak people so hard hit by the pandemic (without forgetting all the anonymous ones, the widow of number two of the FLNKS Yéwéné Yéwéné, assassinated in 1989 at the same time as Jean-Marie Tjibaou, died as well as of the founders of the USTKE).
May humanity and reason take precedence over basely political calculations ; it is about the common destiny in the Country ! Let us support the Kanak people, even today in a new and terrible ordeal, in their demand for a sovereign and independent Kanaky-New Caledonia with respect for all components of its population !
Daniel Guerrier (former co-president of the Association for Information and Support for the Rights of the Kanak People (AISDPK)
Daniel Guerrier co-chaired AISDPK in the 1980s with Jean Chesneaux, Jean-Jacques de Felice and Alban Bensa, all three of whom are now deceased. Alban having left us on October 10, the author wishes to salute his memory here.