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Three Already Dead – Island nation erupts into violence

Australians planning trips to New Caledonia are urged to exercise extreme caution as widespread demonstrations and clashes over constitutional changes grip the French territory.

According to a spokesperson for New Caledonia President Louis Mapou, the violent riots have claimed three lives and left hundreds wounded.

The unrest, sparked by a vote in France’s Assemblée Nationale to grant voting rights to French citizens residing in New Caledonia for a decade, erupted into protests on Monday night.

While lawmakers argued that the reform promotes democracy, protesters contend it dilutes the voting influence of the indigenous Kanak people, who comprise approximately 40% of the nation’s 300,000 inhabitants.

All three fatalities were young indigenous Kanak individuals. Reports suggest one was fatally shot, purportedly in an act of self-defense rather than by law enforcement.

In response to escalating tensions, Australia’s Smart Traveller website has raised its advisory level for the Noumea metropolitan area, urging travelers to exercise a high degree of caution due to the potential for violence during protests.

With New Caledonia’s main international airport shuttered, essential services disrupted, and flights canceled, authorities caution against attending demonstrations, public gatherings, or encountering roadblocks.

The French Interior Minister reported numerous injuries among both protesters and law enforcement officers, with approximately 130 arrests made since Monday.

French President Emmanuel Macron has convened a national security meeting to address the crisis, while France’s High Commissioner of the Republic in New Caledonia, Louis Le Franc, issued a stark warning about the potential for further bloodshed if peace cannot be restored.

The ongoing unrest marks the most significant bout of turmoil since the pro-independence protests of the 1980s, underscoring the persistent political tensions surrounding New Caledonia’s status as a French territory.

While New Caledonia enjoys semi-autonomy, France retains control over defense, foreign affairs, the judiciary, and economic policy. Amidst the chaos, France has deployed additional gendarmerie squads to quell the unrest.

Australia affirms its commitment to supporting dialogue and peaceful resolutions in New Caledonia, emphasizing the importance of constructive engagement among all parties to determine the territory’s future.


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