New Caledonia separatists renew call on Paris to abandon voting reform

Separatists in the French Overseas Pacific territory of New Caledonia have renewed pressure on Paris to drop a planned voting reform that triggered weeks of deadly unrest.

The Socialist Kanak National Liberation Front (FLNKS) – named for the indigenous people who fear being marginalised by the changes – said President Emmanuel Macron should "be clear in his words by stating clearly he will ... abandon the constitutional reform", which has yet to be approved by both houses of France's parliament.

The FLNKS' political committee told Macron in an open letter released this Monday: "Such an announcement would permit ... the calming of the current tensions so as to resume discussions on the future of New Caledonia."

The French government plans to open up the archipelago's electoral roll – frozen since 1998 – to more recent arrivals who have lived there for at least 10 years.

Kanaks fear the change will crush their ambitions for independence by leaving them in a permanent minority in the territory of 270,000 people.

Deadly riots

Anger over the plans spilled into two weeks of riots and erection of barricades that cut off many neighbourhoods and blocked major roads.

The recent clashes cost the lives of seven people and left hundreds more injured, as well as causing around one billion euros in damage.

"On the ground, these remarks regrettably continue not to be understood," the FLNKS said.

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