17 Aug 2017

French police plan security around New Caledonia referendum

10:16 pm on 17 August 2017

Preparations are being made in France to ensure security for next year's planned independence referendum in New Caledonia.

French police officers stand guard on a road in Mont-Dore, a suburb of Noumea, in New Caledonia, on May 28, 2014, while a tow lifts the wreckage of a burned car. Angry residents from the Saint Louis tribal group burned cars creating roadblocks on May 24, 2014

Photo: AFP

This was confirmed by the new head of the armed police, or gendarmerie, in New Caledonia General Christophe Marietti.

In an interview with Noumea's daily newspaper Les Nouvelles caledoniennes, the commander said a committee had been set up within national police headquarters to follow developments in New Caledonia and to deploy reinforcements if necessary.

He said it was vital both for the French High Commission, which is responsible for public safety, and for the police that the democratic process was not disturbed by security problems.

General Marietti said since his arrival in Noumea earlier this month he had held talks with political leaders in a bid to avoid security being politicised at the time of the referendum, which is tentatively due to be held in November next year.

He said his immediate priority was improving road safety, while noting the public was mostly concerned about the incidence of burglaries and car thefts.

He said the latest road fatality was a 70-year-old woman driver who died under the influence of alcohol without wearing a seat belt.

New Caledonia is the fourth French overseas territory whose armed police is now led by a general, which General Marietti said was due to the trend that French police overseas are more exposed to attacks than in mainland France.

Extra forces were sent to New Caledonia at the start of the year after bouts of unrest last year.