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Pacific News Minute: Unrest Continues in New Caledonia

Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons

53 police reinforcements are due to arrive in New Caledonia this month as sporadic violence continues south of the capital. And French authorities warn of  military style operations if unrest continues. We have more from Neal Conan in today’s Pacific News Minute.

Last October, police shot and killed prison escapee William Decoire at a road block. Self-defense, the public prosecutor ruled; Decoire’s family called it assassination by French Colonial troops.

Since then, heavily armed young Kanaks from Decoire’s home town of Saint Louis have repeatedly closed the road that runs south from the capital, Noumea.  At first with roadblocks of burning cars, and, after those were cleared, by firing at traffic.

Last week, as two thousand people demonstrated outside his office to protest the latest road closure. French High Commissioner Thierry Lataste said that 60 police operations had been carried out in Saint Louis over the past three months, involving at least 40 officers each time.  So far, eleven people are in jail.

Maybe the most telling incident happened in December, after police identified a man named Ramon Noraro as a leader of the armed Kanaks in Saint Louis.  A week later, a still unidentified man shot Noraro dead when a fight erupted between some who want to cooperate with authorities, and a group that wants revenge for the death of Decoire.  French Justice Minister Jean-Jacques Urvoas noted that during that week, not a single person had reported Noraro to the police.

All of this, against the backdrop of preparations for a plebiscite in New Caledonia, to choose independence or continued rule by France.

Over 36 years with National Public Radio, Neal Conan worked as a correspondent based in New York, Washington, and London; covered wars in the Middle East and Northern Ireland; Olympic Games in Lake Placid and Sarajevo; and a presidential impeachment. He served, at various times, as editor, producer, and executive producer of All Things Considered and may be best known as the long-time host of Talk of the Nation. Now a macadamia nut farmer on Hawaiʻi Island, his "Pacific News Minute" can be heard on HPR Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays.
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