Paris meeting to prepare New Caledonia independence vote
New Caledonian politicians meet in Paris to help prepare 2018 independence referendum as Noumea Accord expires.
Preparations for New Caledonia's independence referendum are assuming growing urgency.
The vote will be in 2018 but sticking points remain which will be raised at a key meeting in Paris this week.
The French prime minister, Manuel Valls, will chair the meeting beginning on Thursday/tomorrow attended by the so-called signatories of the 1998 Noumea Accord - the 20-year road map that will run out in two years.
Walter Zweifel has this report,
A New Caledonian anthem has been selected as the territory is trying to forge what is being called its common destiny - a new flag however is yet elusive and as both the French tricolore and the separatist FLNKS flag are being flown.
Infighting among both the rival anti-and pro-independence sides has delayed much of the work left to be done.
The most urgent issue though is the electoral roll that determines who the voters will be to decide the territory's future.
Gerard Reignier is of the pro-independence Caledonian Union, a faction of pro-independence FLNKS movement which is a signatory of the accord.
"We cannot go on working with lies, we can go on with fraud - it's time to repair."
Although the French constitution restricts voting rights to those who have been in the territory since before 1998, the FLNKS says more than 3,000 ineligible residents are still listed as voters.
The movement is getting exasperated at the French authorities' inability, or possibly unwillingness, to produce a roll beyond reproach.
The loyalists concede that if the roll is stacked with ineligible voters, the referendum outcome could be challenged and voided.
After the unrest of the 1980s, New Caledonia has had three decades of peace, which everybody is keen to maintain.
Yet, delinquency and lawlessness by mainly indigenous Kanaks have reached worrying proportions, with reports of security forces being assaulted or shot at rising in frequency at an alarming rate.
The French overseas minister, George Pau Langevin, has been asked in the Senate to consider sending extra forces to contain the violence.
"We are in this Senate all aware of the fragility of the situation in New Caledonia and we follow with a lot of determination what happens there. That's why this meeting of the signatories is very important."
Fears of unrest have spawned calls that a new accord should be drafted to follow the Noumea Accord - others worry that it is unclear what independence means in practice.
Speaking in a television interview, Roch Wamytan who co-signed the Noumea Accord in 1998 says the vote should be held.
At some point, one has to give the Kanak people, that is the colonised people, as well as others who have arrived here as the result of history, the chance to have a say to know what sort of future the people, and above all the Kanak people, want.
While in Paris, the signatories will also discuss with the French state how New Caledonia should harness its nickel wealth.
The price of nickel has plummeted and the export of the metal remains the backbone of the economy.
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