Darmanin back in New Caledonia in March to work on a new statute

Gerald Darmanin

French interior minister Gerald Darmanin is due back in New Caledonia in early March to advance work on a new statute for the territory.

The news agency AFP reports the minister will be in Noumea between 2 and 8 March.

After a week of wide-ranging talks in New Caledonia at the end of last year, Darmanin agreed to hold off bilateral discussions with the pro-independence Kanak and Socialist National Liberation Front (FLNKS) until it has held its congress.

In three referendums, New Caledonia rejected full sovereignty, but the FLNKS refuses to recognise the third vote, held in December 2021, as the legitimate outcome of the decolonisation process.

With the conclusion of the 1998 Noumea Accord, a new statute needs to be drawn up.

Darmanin’s predecessor planned a referendum on a new statute in June this year, but no document has been produced and Paris no longer plans to hold any referendum in New Caledonia during the term of President Emmanuel Macron.

Party proposes date for independence accord

Meanwhile, New Caledonia’s pro-independence Caledonian Union has proposed 24 September as the date by which an accord be reached with France to end the colonial period.

The party, which wants independence for the territory by 2025, has chosen the date because it will mark the 170th anniversary of New Caledonia becoming a French colony.

The call was made by the party’s president Daniel Goa after reports from Paris that the French interior minister Gerald Darmanin would be back in New Caledonia in early March to advance work on a new statute for the territory.

The FLNKS is scheduled to hold its congress at the end of February to prepare its position for the bilateral talks scheduled with Darmanin.

New Caledonia has been on the UN decolonisation list since 1986, based on the Kanak people’s internationally recognised right to self-determination.

Goa said negotiations are only worthwhile if they deal with the emancipation of the country.

He said his side needs to know how the French state will withdraw and how it will compensate New Caledonia for 170 years of the looting of its resources.

The anti-independence camp says a revised statute should be in place for the 2024 provincial election.

The pro-French parties have said that by then the restricted electoral must be opened to all French citizens.