Edouard Philippe had warned Jean Castex during the transfer of power: “You will see, Mr. Prime Minister, in Matignon we talk a lot about New Caledonia. Before leaving his post, he added: it is “a fascinating, difficult, complex, still uncertain process”. He was not wrong: while the State had succeeded in maintaining peace for nearly three decades in this French archipelago in the South Pacific, the situation is on the verge of derailment: violence, gunfire on gendarmes, roadblocks .
In December, Kanak separatists stormed the large nickel factory in the South, which employs 3,000 people. This economic lung is now at a standstill. The rioters castigate the sale of the company to a consortium including the Swiss giant Trafigura. Denouncing the “interests of multinationals”, they demanded the nationalization of the factory by the French state. “It’s still contradictory for separatists,” squeaks an observer.
These tensions led the independentist elected representatives to resign en bloc and to bring down the local government on Tuesday. The shock wave reached the metropolis. Because New Caledonia is one of the most explosive issues in overseas territories – no one has forgotten the civil war of the 1980s. The President of the Senate, Gérard Larcher, has activated a “contact group” that he chairs in person to “facilitate the resumption of dialogue”. “It’s a subject that is particularly close to my heart,” he insisted. For his part, Xavier Bertrand wrote to Jean Castex to ask the State to “take an initiative likely to lower the tension on the territory”. The Prime Minister is for the moment discreet on the file.
If the climate is explosive, it is also because of the imminence of the third and last referendum on independence, provided for by the Nouméa Accords of 1998. The Congress of New Caledonia can initiate this process from the 4th April. The last two consultations, in 2018 and 2020, saw the victory of the loyalists. But the gap has narrowed, pushing the separatists to gamble for everything. The next referendum must be held by 2022. No one knows what the rest will look like. In this context, the Overseas Minister Sébastien Lecornu wants to push the loyalists and the separatists to specify their projects in the event of retention in the Republic or of divorce. One thing is certain: if the antipodes campaign were to degenerate, it could ricochet through the presidential election.
Original article by : www.leparisien.fr