New Caledonia minister vows persistent fight for Kanak independence

New Caledonia minister vows persistent fight for Kanak independence

Tensions continue to rise in New Caledonia over electoral reform

By Esra Taskin

PARIS (AA) - New Caledonia's Minister of Youth, Sports, and Culture, Mickael Forrest, pledged to persistently fight for the independence of the indigenous Kanak people.

"Of course, there were some disturbances, but this was primarily to show France, the state, and the whole world that the Kanak people are still standing and alive. As long as a Kanak is alive, they will fight for independence," said Forrest, from the Kanak Socialist National Liberation Front (FLNKS), a party advocating for independence in the French overseas colony of New Caledonia.

The French government's "constitutional reform" plan to include French settlers in the Kanak electoral list has sparked local protests.

The reform, which could affect voter numbers and political processes, is being discussed in the French parliament, 17,000 kilometers (10,563 miles) from New Caledonia -- a colony in the Indo-Pacific region since 1853.

Independence-supporting Kanaks began protests May 13.

The French government has taken restrictive measures against locals opposed to Paris deciding the independence process, deploying police and gendarmerie across the island, especially in Noumea.

TikTok was banned May 15 and a 12-day state of emergency was declared.

French official sources reported seven deaths and more than 370 detentions on the island.

One of the Kanak independence leaders, Christian Tein, urged supporters in a social media video to continue resisting the French government's constitutional reform.

"We continue to mobilize and sustain every form of resistance in the neighborhoods," said Tein, stressing the serious pressure on the Kanak people in settlements on the island.

Forrest told Anadolu why the Kanaks oppose the reform. He said France continues its century-old colonial practices in New Caledonia.

"They did these practices in many French colonies in the past, plundering natural resources, dividing people, and creating the conditions necessary for the continuation of colonial influence," he said.

Forrest expressed a desire to "resist" locally in New Caledonia while also aiming to internationalize the struggle.


- 'This means completely destroying Kanak people'

Forrest commented on the French government's plan to pass the constitutional reform through a final parliamentary vote, warning that it could grant 25,000 to 35,000 additional voters the right to vote if implemented.

"This means completely destroying the Kanak people," he said, highlighting it would lead to the Kanak people to becoming a minority in their own country.

Forrest observed that in recent weeks, France has been discriminating between the local population and Europeans on the island.

"We previously condemned the military presence and the actions aimed at killing our youth. In the past, more of our leaders were killed. But for the past 15 days, three weeks, many young people have been killed cowardly," he said.

He also underscored the importance of Kanaks persisting in their resistance to attain sovereignty, pointing out that the Kanak people are engaging in peaceful actions.

"Our struggle is righteous and noble, of course, for the Melanesian people who are facing a great world power on a small island in the Pacific,” he said. “But we will continue to struggle and resist."

Forrest pointed out that France's desire to remain on the island is driven by economic and particularly geopolitical factors, including the colony's natural resources and France's need to uphold its influence in the Pacific region.

*Writing by Gizem Nisa Cebi


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