4 Jul 2016

New Caledonians pay tribute to Rocard

3:28 pm on 4 July 2016

Tributes have been paid in New Caledonia to Michel Rocard who helped craft the Matignon Accords, putting an end to years of violence in the French territory.

The former Socialist Prime Minister of France died on Saturday aged 85.

Former French Socialist prime minister Michel Rocard, hailed a "visionary statesman", died on July 2, 2016 aged 85 his son Francis told AFP.

Former French Socialist prime minister Michel Rocard, hailed a "visionary statesman", died on July 2, 2016 aged 85 his son Francis told AFP. Photo: PATRICK KOVARIK / AFP

A leading New Caledonian politician Philippe Gomes praised what he called the "Rocard method" which helped a return to peace following the 1988 Ouvea hostage crisis in which two soldiers and 19 independence activists were killed.

Mr Rocard sent a mission to New Caledonia including senior officials and church representatives which led to the signing of the Matignon Accords the following month in Paris.

Mr Gomes said New Caledonians owed an intractable debt to Mr Rocard.

The President of Congress Thierry Santa hailed him as creative and pragmatic and able to come up with an original solution for New Caledonia.

New Caledonia's capital Noumea.

New Caledonia's capital Noumea. Photo: RNZI / Johnny Blades

France's newly installed High Commissioner in Noumea Thierry Lataste said Mr Rocard continued his links with the territory, phoning him only a few weeks ago to tell him about his interest in New Caledonia and its future.

The president of the Southern Province Philippe Michel also paid homage to a statesman he described as a highly cultured humanist who played a leading role in New Caledonia's history.

The Republicans said his vision, wisdom and tenacity encouraged them to build solidarity for New Caledonia within the French republic.

In an interview in 2013 Mr Rocard said the Matignon agreement was one of the finest moments of his political life.

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