The High Commissioner of the Republic in New Caledonia announced Friday the maintenance of the self-determination referendum on the date initially planned. “Caledonians who wish to go to the polls on December 12 will be able to do so in peace,” said Patrice Faure, assuring that the health situation was “under control”.
This decision announced on the occasion of a trip to Ponérihouen, a village managed by a independence mayor, was greeted by supporters of maintaining the French fold, but much less by the separatists of the FLNKS who asked for a postponement to September 2022 in due to the health situation. The non-separatists welcomed this decision “which offers future prospects”, while their opponents have promised to contest the result.
Disagreement on the assessment of the health situation
On several occasions, Overseas Minister Sébastien Lecornu had explained that “only the health criterion” would be taken into account when deciding whether or not to maintain the vote. Le Caillou, long spared, has been hit since early September by a Covid-19 epidemic, killing 272 in two months on the archipelago of 280,000 inhabitants, but now in sharp decline.
As early as October 20, the FLNKS had warned that it would not participate in the third and last consultation on the accession to full sovereignty of New Caledonia, provided for in the framework of the Nouméa agreement (1998). The independence coalition, joined by other nationalist formations, considers it “impossible” to hold a “fair campaign” because of the many deaths and health restrictions.
The referendum could be challenged before the UN
“For us that doesn’t change anything. We remain on the instruction not to go. We do not feel concerned by this referendum because the sanitary and social conditions are not met to be in serenity and peace ”, reacted Daniel Goa, spokesperson for the FLNKS, on RNC la1ère. Signatory of the Noumea agreement and elected territorial, Victor Tutugoro, for his part reaffirmed that the FLNKS “will not recognize the result”, which could be challenged before the UN (United Nations Organization).
“This is the last meeting of the decolonization process of the Noumea Accord, and it will take place without the first people, without the colonized people!” This referendum is being stolen from us, ”thundered the Kanak leader. He also accused the State of wanting to “rush to break the dynamic” of yes to independence. The score of the separatists had gone from 43.3% during the first referendum in November 2018 to 46.7% of the votes in October 2020. “The State knows that the situation is favorable to no because there is no campaign and that France provides massive aid in the face of the health crisis, ”explained Victor Tutugoro.
“Acceptable and sustainable” health indicators
The non-separatists, who wanted to maintain the vote, applauded this decision. “We thank the State for assuming its responsibilities and thus offering future prospects to Caledonians by giving us the possibility of closing the period of the Noumea Accord”, reacted in a press release the movement Les Voix du no, which brings together the main loyalist parties.
They underlined that “the health indicators (…) are today acceptable and sustainable” to make “possible” the organization of a campaign which they themselves resumed two weeks ago. “We regret that at this time in our common history the separatists are not up to the challenges,” the movement also indicated.
This final referendum on the accession to full sovereignty comes at the end of a process of decolonization and reconciliation between the communities, after the violence of the 1980s, opened by the Matignon agreements in 1998 and then extended by the Nouméa agreement. . Leader of Générations.nc, Nicolas Metzdorf congratulated himself on the fact that “the State did not tremble” because “nothing could justify a postponement of the referendum except a threat of independence for destabilization”.
Member of Parliament for the first constituency of New Caledonia, Philippe Dunouyer (UDI) considered that this third referendum “(us) required to initiate, the next day, discussions in order to build the bases of a new common future”.