15 Mar 2011

Kanak flag law triggers New Caledonia realignment

4:19 pm on 15 March 2011

A former New Caledonian president, Philippe Gomes, has welcomed a decision by the anti-independence Rassemblement-UMP not to endorse plans to make the Kanak flag an official emblem by law.

The flag issue has been at the heart of two governemnt collapses in the past month, with Mr Gomes calling for a new flag to be chosen to express New Caledonia's identity.

Since last July many public building have jointly flown the French and Kanak flags as part of a compromise, reached by some politicians and endorsed by Paris.

The pro-independence Caledonian Union plans to pass a local law to make the use of the Kanak flag mandatory but the Rassemblement-UMP has now distanced itself from the plan.

Mr Gomes has told public radio that the party changed its position after it found that he had won strong support for his call for a new flag.

On Thursday, the Congress is to elect a new government, with the flag issue still being seen as a dividing and defining issue.