12 Mar 2015

New Caledonia roll row needs UN help

12:49 pm on 12 March 2015

A New Caledonian pro-independence leader, Roch Wamytan, says his side is now convinced that without involving the United Nations, the electoral rolls won't be in line with the law.

Last month, France's highest court ruled that those eligible to vote in the territory's provincial elections must have been enrolled since 1998 or submit proof that they lived in the territory since 1988.

The restricted roll is part of the decolonisation process which is expected to lead to an independence referendum by 2018.

Magistrates sent from France have joined special commissions this month to vet the rolls amid claims by the pro-independence side that thousands of people voted last year illegally.

The commissions have thrown out most challenges, prompting Mr Wamytan to call on the French High Commission to seek a court order to annul the commissions' work.

He says the laws are made in Paris but they are not being applied in New Caledonia, in particular not in areas controlled by the anti-independence side.

Mr Wamytan says the magistrates don't exercise their full powers, with organisations withholding relevant information by citing privacy concerns.

The anti-independence camp, however, is incensed at the restrictions confirmed by the court, criticising Paris for failing to show political leadership.

But the French prime minister, Manuel Valls, this week confirmed that the government will strictly adhere to the court ruling, saying it is normal in a country with the rule of law.

Roch Wamytan

New Caledonian pro-independence leader Roch Wamytan Photo: AFP

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