14 Apr 2006

New Caledonian Minister says Kanak activists must face responsibilities to the territory

4:23 pm on 14 April 2006

The New Caledonian minister for economic development and mining, Didier Leroux, says Rheebu Nuu activists should either talk to the stakeholders, or face their responsibilities and go to jail.

This comes after Goro Nickel shut down operations on the two billion US dollar project about two weeks ago after massive vandalism by Kanaks opposed to aspects of the enterprise.

Roundtable talks were unsuccessful and a Kanak leader, Roch Wamytan, has since asked the United Nations to act as a mediator in the conflict.

But Mr Leroux says the United Nations will be of no help, and he says something must happen.

"If you have 200 or so people opposing a project, behind which all the country, all the communities of the country stand, and all the political parties are standing, then you have to keep these people from being a nonsense. And if they want to oppose anything, then they have to face their responsibilities, and go to court and go to jail."

Didier Leroux

Meanwhile, about 2000 Goro employees are affected by the suspension of the project, and some of them have asked the French government for help.

French police have arrested several activists, but the nickel company says it is still not safe to resume the project.