New Caledonia to vote on independence

·2-min read

The French Pacific island of New Caledonia will hold an independence referendum on December 12, a French official has been quoted as saying by French media.

The remarks confirm a schedule that had come into question because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"France's High Commissioner (for the territory) Patrice Faure made the announcement during a visit to the pro-independence community of Ponerihouen on the east coast of New Caledonia", French newspaper Le Monde said.

France's overseas ministry said earlier this year that the referendum, the third in the island's history as a French overseas territory, would be followed by a two-year transition period to allow Paris to clarify its relations with New Caledonia.

The December 12 date came into question after the main pro-independence movement FLNKS urged Paris in October to postpone the referendum, saying campaigning followed by a fair vote had been made impossible by the pandemic.

Radio franceinfo said on Friday the decision to uphold the planned schedule had been taken late on Thursday by French President Emmanuel Macron.

Daniel Goa, one of the independence movement's main figures, indicated pro-independence activists would still boycott the vote. "We're sticking to our position," Goa said in a radio interview.

New registered COVID-19 cases have declined over recent weeks, public data showed, and some restrictions linked to the pandemic are due to be eased on Monday.

New Caledonia, which lies some 1200km east of Australia and 20,000km from Paris, houses business operations for French mining group Eramet.

The island enjoys a large degree of autonomy but depends heavily on France for matters such as defence and education.

The territory voted in October 2020 against independence from France, with 53 peer cent in favour of staying under French control. That was down from 57 per cent in a 2018 referendum.

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