The French High Commissioner in New Caledonia has expressed concern at inflammatory comments over the security problems around the Kanak village of St Louis where shootings have repeatedly prompted the police to close the road.
Thierry Lataste issued a statement after about 2000 people rallied outside his offices in Noumea yesterday to show their exasperation over the insecurity and nightly road closure which affect most residents in the south of the main island.
Mr Lataste has urged political leaders to refrain from calling St Louis the disgrace of the French Republic, pointing out that security forces are present to enforce the law.
He said in the past three monhts, 60 police operations were carried out in St Louis, involving at least 40 police officers every time.
Since the end of October, he said, 11 people had been jailed and 48 had been detained.
He said the individuals who shot at police last weekend and injured two officers must be arrested and this should happen soon.
Mr Lataste said next week, the nightly road closures might end if the security situation allowed it.
Kanak leaders have been alarmed at earlier comments by a High Commission official who warned of a military-style operation if St Louis residents failed to hand over the suspected gunmen.
The warning by Laurent Cabrera said there could be fatalities, should such an intervention be launched.
In response, an anti-independence Congress member Philippe Blaise said he would like to know whether Mr Lataste's priroties lay with managing the sensitivities of pro-independence leaders.
He said some leaders in St Louis were part of the problem and not part of the solution.