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  • Sudeep Dilip Kothavade

"Intolerable": New Caledonia declares an emergency as unrest develops.

Sudeep Dilip Kothavade,

Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj University

"Intolerable": New Caledonia declares an emergency as unrest develops.

On May 15,2024 the State of France declared emergency in Pacific Islands Territory in New Caredonia after three indigenous Kanak people and one police officer were killed during violent protests against electoral reforms.[i]

The meaning of the situation of emergency

During a state of emergency, authorities can impose travel restrictions, make home arrests, conduct searches, impose a nighttime curfew, and prohibit gatherings, alcohol sales, and the possession of weapons.[ii]

Cause of unrest:

Tension has long existed in New Caledonia, a French overseas territory, between the Indigenous Kanak population, which seeks independence, and the descendants of European colonists, who seek integration into France. This said state is located 16820.88 KM from State of France.[iii]

The said violence erupted as French MPs prepared to vote on whether or not to extend voting rights in the region. Critics argue that this could benefit pro-French politicians while marginalizing the indigenous Kanak minority. Overnight, the National Assembly approved the change. However, the legislation must still pass a final vote in each chamber of parliament before it can become law and the population of New Caledonia who were against the extension of said voting rights culminated protests and therein government imposed late night curfew.[iv]

Timelines after the said emergency was declared: -

On May 16,2024, Prime Minister of France, Gabriel Attal stated that France would send approximately 1,000 "additional security personnel" to reinforce the current 1700 security forces stationed there and on the end of same day the government made 200 arrests, and protesters injured 64 gendarmes and police officers. The demonstrators' roadblocks caused a "dire situation" for the population's food and medical supplies.

On May 17,2024, The French government's Viginum agency, which monitors foreign digital manipulation, stated  that it had identified a "massive and coordinated" internet campaign that spread the falsehood that pro-independence demonstrators in New Caledonia were shot by French police[v] and on the same day the New Caledonian high commissioner's officer said that since hundreds of security reinforcements arrived from Paris, there has been less rioting in the province capital, Noumea. France on the same day accused Azerbaijan (which is nearly 14,000 Km away from accuser state) of being behind the protests and the same accusation was declined by accused State.[vi]

 On May 19,2024, The said violence in New Caledonia prompted French Prime Minister Gabriel Attal to remove the French territory in the Pacific Ocean from Olympic torchbearer. The torch was meant to arrive in the archipelago on June 11,2024 and slowly move to Paris in time for the July 26,2024 Paris Games opening ceremony.[vii]

On May 20,2024, According to AFP, over 3,000 tourists, including more than 300 Australians and 250 New Zealanders, are reported to be trapped in New Caledonia.[viii]Winston Peters, New Zealand's foreign minister, announced in a statement that his country's armed forces had "completed preparations" for planes to "bring home New Zealanders in New Caledonia while commercial services are not operating".[ix]Albert Albanese, Australia's prime minister, said ABC radio that his country had been requesting authorization from the French government for the previous two days to send an evacuation plane to New Caledonia to rescue passengers who had become trapped in hotels.[x]

On May 21,2024, Despite the French government's pledge that a massive security operation was underway to restore peace, separatists' reluctance to remove hurdles that had paralyzed the Pacific archipelago for a week forced the closing of New Caledonia's international airport on Monday.[xi]Following the shutdown of the international airport, Foreign Minister Penny Wong declared that Australia had been granted permission for two flights and that the government would "continue to work on further flights".[xii]

Aftermaths of Emergency:

Currently, the military forces are guarding New Caledonia's two airports and port and hundreds of French police are on their way to the Pacific region following a fifth night of violent rioting that killed  people.France citizens has expressed support with the opposition to the legislation modifications, as seen by a solidarity rally conducted in Toulouse on Saturday and the display of Kanak flags during a pro-Palestinian event in Paris. The turmoil has also rekindled diplomatic tensions between France and Azerbaijan, which escalated after Azerbaijan annexed Nagorno-Karabakh last year. Six people are deceased and hundreds of people are injured as of now from the day the protests begun.

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