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Macron declares state of emergency in New Caledonia

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French President Emmanuel Macron convened a crisis meeting on Wednesday and declared a state of emergency in New Caledonia following deadly unrest in New Caledonia, France’s semi-autonomous Pacific territory that has long sought independence. .

French authorities took what they called ” “Lots of” The mobilization of security forces comes after violent protests erupted in New Caledonia this week over proposed amendments to the French constitution that would change the territory’s voting rules. France’s parliament voted to approve the amendment on Tuesday, sparking riots overnight that left three people dead.

Macron met with the defense and national security councils on Wednesday about the situation, according to a statement from his office. The statement said he expressed “strong emotions” about the deaths and expressed his gratitude to French security forces. It also said he had asked for a state of emergency to be declared in the territory at an afternoon cabinet meeting.

“All acts of violence are intolerable and will be met with a ruthless response” to ensure order is restored, the statement said. Macron welcomed calls for calm from officials, he added.

In 1853, France annexed New Caledonia, an island with a population of about 270,000. The prospect of independence has heightened decades of tensions in the territory.

In the 1980s, after an uprising known as the Affair left dozens of people dead, the French government promised changes. The territory has held three independence referendums since 2018; all were rejected.

Proposed constitutional changes – broadening the eligibility of French citizens to vote in provincial elections – have struck a new nerve. Pro-independence activists in New Caledonia have expressed concern that it would weaken their movement and reflect a more aggressive attempt by the French government to assert itself in the territory.

New Caledonia’s electoral roll has been effectively frozen since 2007, with only voters listed in 1998 eligible to vote in subsequent elections. The amendment gives all French citizens who have lived in the territory for 10 years the right to vote, effectively increasing the number of voters by about 20,000 to 25,000, said Adrian Muckle, a senior lecturer in history at Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand. . Expert on New Caledonia.

Tensions have grown over the past few weeks, with protests turning violent on Monday night. The violence has since escalated, despite officials calling for calm.

France’s interior ministry said on Wednesday that more than 1,800 police officers had arrived in the area and 500 reinforcements would arrive in the next 24 hours. Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin tell broadcaster RTL “Hundreds of people” were injured in the riots.

Several businesses and public buildings, including schools, were looted or set on fire and more than 130 people were arrested, according to the French High Commission.

A curfew imposed on the capital Noumea on Tuesday will remain in place, as will a ban on all public gatherings, the statement said.Noumea’s international airport has been closed since Tuesday, all commercial flights have been canceled and the local government said schools will remain closed until further notice.

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