27 Apr 2015

New Caledonia leaders called to Paris over disagreements

9:28 am on 27 April 2015

The president of the French National Assembly has called for a meeting of New Caledonia's political leaders in Paris to overcome disagreements over a new electoral law for the territory's independence referendum.

Claude Bartolone, president of the French National Assembly

Claude Bartolone, president of the French National Assembly Photo: AFP

Claude Bartolone made the proposal after talks in Noumea and after a mass rally by loyalists determined to stay French.

He says he has discussed holding such an extraordinary meeting with the French government in Paris before June in a telephone call with the prime minister, Manuel Valls.

The anti-independence parties keep accusing the French Socialist government of siding with the pro-independence camp despite repeated assurances by Paris that the French state is impartial in the decolonisation process as outlined in the 1998 Noumea Accord.

They are in particular incensed at a law proposal now before the Senate which would automatically enrol only indigenous Kanaks for the indepedendence referendum due by 2018.

This means, they say, that tens of thousands will be forced to prove that they are Caledonians as well.

French government leaders say they are bound by the interpretation of the relevant provisions by the country's highest court.

The loyalists, who last Friday took to Noumea streets in their thousands, want the law to be amended while the pro-independence group has said the Noumea Accord and its provisions should be implemented as it stands.

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