1 Jul 2009

French junior minister Penchard declines comment on New Caledonia USTKE ruling

1:51 pm on 1 July 2009

The new French State Secretary in charge of Overseas Territories, Marie-Luce Penchard, has refused to comment on the one-year jail term given to a unionist in New Caledonia.

The USTKE leader, Gerard Jodar, was sentenced, along with other union members, for disrupting air traffic in Noumea during a recent strike.

There had been accusations in New Caledonia that the verdict was the result of colonial justice but Mrs Penchard rejected this, saying there is only one justice in the French republic.

Without specifically naming anyone, Mrs Penchard criticised those who use union activism for political goals.

However, she said some people's violent behaviour can't ruin the work being done in New Caledonia to end a long period of conflict.

Her comments on union activism echo statements made last week by President Nicolas Sarkozy in the French Antilles where strikes this year caused massive disruptions.