25 Sep 2003

New Caledonia commemorates 150 years as French colony

10:15 am on 25 September 2003

New Caledonia has marked 150 years as a French possession with the unveiling of a Kanak statue at a bay in Noumea.

The Kanak sculpture, which is called mwa ka, was to be placed in the city's main square but our correspondent, Tuo Chinula, says the mayor, Jean Leques, objected to the Kanaks' wishes.

"Kanak people have pointed out that in the place des cocotiers, which is the centre, the heart of Noumea, there are statues of important French people, statues symbolising French culture but there is not actually any symbol representing the indigenous people of New Caledonia."

Tuo Chinula says the theme of the commemoration was "common destiny", a reference to the 1998 Noumea accord which will lead to a referendum on self-determination within 15 years.