Protests erupt in New Caledonia

By , K24 Digital
On Tue, 14 May, 2024 15:13 | < 1 min read
Burnt cars in the aftermath of protests that turned violent in Noumea, New Caledonia. PHOTO/Reuters
Burnt cars in the aftermath of protests that turned violent in Noumea, New Caledonia. PHOTO/Reuters

Violent protests have erupted over proposed voting reforms in the French Pacific territory of New Caledonia.

Cars have been torched, shops looted and shots have been fired at police, authorities said.

A curfew has been imposed in the capital Noumea and the international airport is closed, while police reinforcements have been called in.

French Prime Minister Gabriel Attal has called for "calm", saying "violence is never and can never be justified".

Peaceful protests over voting reforms turned violent on Monday night, ahead of a vote in the French National Assembly on Tuesday.

The draft law would change New Caledonia's voting rules to allow French residents who have lived in the territory for 10 years to vote in provincial elections - a move local leaders fear will dilute the vote of the indigenous Kanak population.

Rioters are said to have taken over several roundabouts, attacked police stations and confronted police, who responded with non-lethal rounds.

Shots were fired at the police using high-calibre weapons and hunting rifles but none were killed, the High Commissioner Louis Le Franc said, according to AFP.

Over the past two days 82 people have been arrested, France Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said, while 54 police officers had been injured.

He strongly condemned the violence, adding police reinforcements were being sent.

Chief of Police Nicolas Mattheos said there had been "a real unleashing of hatred, an outpouring of often intoxicated young people who had been manipulated, with unprecedented violence".

Around 30 shops, factories and other sites have been set on fire, the AFP news agency reported a business group saying.

New Caledonia, one of five French island territories in the Indo-Pacific, is the world's third-largest producer of nickel and is at the centre of President Emmanuel Macron's plans to increase France's influence in the region.

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