New Caledonia: riots and tensions on the sidelines of the vote on constitutional reform in the Assembly

Vehicles burned, stores looted, clashes between demonstrators and police: violence punctuated the night of Monday May 13 to Tuesday May 14 in Nouméa, 17,000 kilometers from Paris, where deputies are looking into a denounced constitutional revision by the separatists of New Caledonia

New Caledonia: riots and tensions on the sidelines of the vote on constitutional reform in the Assembly

Vehicles burned, stores looted, clashes between demonstrators and police: violence punctuated the night of Monday May 13 to Tuesday May 14 in Nouméa, 17,000 kilometers from Paris, where deputies are looking into a denounced constitutional revision by the separatists of New Caledonia.

At the entrance to the New Caledonian "capital", a large factory specializing in bottling was the victim of an arson attack and was completely destroyed by flames on Monday around 10 p.m. local time (1 p.m. local time). of Paris), noted a journalist from Agence France-Presse (AFP).

Several supermarkets were looted in Nouméa, but also in the neighboring towns Dumbéa and Le Mont-Dore. At least two car dealerships were also engulfed in flames around 11 p.m., AFP also noted.

Since nightfall, mobile gendarmes and police have been battling young masked or hooded demonstrators, who have taken over several roundabouts. Fires were lit on the road to obstruct traffic, while shots from defensive bullet launchers and de-encirclement grenades were heard throughout the town.

The first altercations with the police began during the day, on the sidelines of the independence mobilization against the constitutional reform examined Monday in the National Assembly, which aims to expand the electorate in provincial elections, crucial in New Caledonia .

Established in 1998 by the Nouméa Agreement, the electorate is in fact frozen, which has the consequence, twenty-five years later, of depriving nearly one in five voters of the right to vote. For the Minister of the Interior and Overseas Territories, Gérald Darmanin, who carried out this constitutional reform, this provision “is no longer consistent with the principles of democracy”.

But the separatists criticize, conversely, a thaw which risks “even further minimizing the indigenous Kanak people”. The government project will be submitted to a solemn vote by deputies on Tuesday afternoon. “I have a thought for the police officers (…), and particularly for the gendarmes, from whom we are currently evacuating families threatened with death by demonstrators who do not go through democracy, but through violence, shooting. live bullets, intimidation and death threats,” blasted Gérald Darmanin from the Assembly podium on Monday.

Fear of new incidents

According to police sources, twenty arrests took place at 12:25 a.m. in the police zone. The gendarmerie, which is responsible for most of New Caledonia, reported five arrests at the start of the evening; 26 gendarmes were injured, including one seriously, in an eye, by the day's clashes.

In fear of new incidents, the RAID, four squadrons of mobile gendarmes and two sections of CRS 8, a unit specializing in the fight against urban violence, will arrive as reinforcements, AFP learned from a source close to the matter.

Near Nouméa, the road which crosses the tribe of Saint-Louis, an independent stronghold, at Mont-Dore and which connects the south of the island to Nouméa was cut by the police, due to the presence of numerous demonstrators, armed with stones, and lit fires on the road.

The popular district of Montravel, in Nouméa, also had to be cut off to traffic on several occasions, as well as the expressway which connects the city to the north of the island. In a press release published Monday, the High Commissioner of the Republic in New Caledonia, Louis Le Franc, condemned “the blockades of public roads which have taken place since this morning and the numerous attacks on police officers and soldiers of the national gendarmerie.”

He specified that he had given the order for the “gradual unblocking” of the roads occupied during the day and requested “that the offenders implicated in these illegal actions be arrested”. The sale of alcohol and the transport of weapons will be prohibited throughout New Caledonian territory on Tuesday and Wednesday, it is specified in the press release.