10 Nov 2016

Concern over response to New Caledonia unrest

4:28 pm on 10 November 2016

New Caledonia's pro-independence parties have warned against using repressive measures to counter youth delinquency, saying they won't resolve anything in the long run.

Police have been attacked near Noumea

Police have been attacked near Noumea Photo: AFP

In an open letter to the French prime minister and overseas minister, the parties said the problems experienced in recent times should not be politicised because they are the result of an imbalance in society triggered by a colonial system.

The letter said more repression could lead to a diabolical spiral of violence that risks to see new tragedies of the kind seen last month when a young man was shot dead, six policemen were injured and thousands of people couldn't go home because of roadblocks.

There have been no arrests to date.

The letter said they want a debate in the territory's Congress proposing to set up a multi-disciplinary working group with specialists and customary leaders.

At a weekend meeting in Paris called by the French interior minister with New Caledonia's leaders it was announced that an extra 53 police officers would be sent in February.

Call to help Koniambo

The pro-independence parties have called on the French state to help the northern province with its Koniambo nickel plant.

An aerial view taken on September 22, 2015 in Voh, in North Province, New Caledonia shows the Koniambo Nickel SAS (KNS) metallurgical plant belonging to Glencore and Societe miniere du Sud Pacifique.

The Koniambo Nickel plant in North Province, New Caledonia. Photo: AFP

The nickel sector is in crisis and Koniambo was in the process of dismissing 140 staff as part of restructuring the multi-billion US dollar plant, which was officially opened two years ago.

The parties said the sacking of local staff was an unacceptable consequence.

The letter said the plant raised huge hopes which cannot be dashed as the country's development is in play.

It said after decades of broken promises, the push by the pro-independence camp allowed for the plant's construction as a means to rebalance the territory.

It also said the French government should be assisting the northern province.

Last weekend, France offered the mainly Brazilian-owned Vale nickel plant in New Caledonia's south a $US220 million loan for ten years to prop up its production.

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