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New Caledonia

Last modified: 2003-01-18 by sam lockton
Keywords: new caledonia | oceania | france |
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[ Flag of France ] 2:3
by Zeljko Heimer

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Independence Initiatives

On April 21, 1998, an agreement was announced in New Caledonia which will give the territory greater autonomy. The territory will have its own government and more power than today and what other "Territories d'outre-mer" have. This agreement will be ratified by Prime Minister Lionel Jospin during his next visit to New Caledonia. A referendum on the agreement will be held this year (1998). Another referendum is to be conducted in 20 years when the territory will decide if it wants its own money, defense and conduct its own foreign affairs policies. The name of this political arrangement for New Caledonia has not been announced, but it will not be a "Territoire d'outre-mer." The name of the territory could be "Kanaky-New Caledonia."

We should expect that there will be a new flag and coat-of-arms. I don't think that the flag of the FLNKS will be chosen because it is a party flag and the flag of those supporting independence. A red flag with a white bird (cagou) has been reported in the last few months, but I have no confirmation of this. It could also be the banner of arms. These emblems are legal since the present status of the territory allows local emblems to be displayed with the emblem and symbols of the French Republic, like in the case for French Polynesia.
Pascal Vagnat, 22 April 1998

The cagou (Rhynochetos) is a unique flightless bird, endemic in New Caledonia (probably distantly related to cranes). Its presence in state symbols is something like Welwitschia in the Namibian coat-of-arms.
Jan Zrzavy, 22 April 1998

New Caledonia will be much more autonomous than other territories such as French Polynesia, but still within the French Republic. I don't know what it is called in legal terms, but I think it is a unique example. New Caledonia will be able to act in every matter, except justice, police, defense, money and foreign affairs, the last being shared with the French government. At the end of the year, the referendum on ratification will be held. Within 15-20 years, if the people wish to have a territory with the competence in the matters of justice, etc. the territory will become an independent state. If not, the local parliament can hold two other referendums and if the people still do not wish this, then the territory will remain French forever.

From "Le Monde," New Caledonia will have its own identity signs, such as a name, flag, hymn, a currency and a graphism for its bank notes, which "should be created in common to express the Kanak identity and the future shared by all. The name of the country can be put on identity documents as well.
Pascal Vagnat, 23 April 1998

I have followed on Swiss TV the elections for the new status of the Province and as far as I recall there was talk of Independence to be gained over a 15 to 20 year period and I also recall that there were proposals to officialize the flag of the Kanaak party as the official flag. I may be wrong but this was as it was reported on Swiss TV.
mats, 12 January 1999

You are right, but in fact there should be a new vote at the end of the transition period (15 or 20 years, as you said) to ask New Caledonians whether they do want full independence. The period is meant to prepare everybody for independence, and see whether it will be possible then for everybody.

Actually there was no question of independence (not yet, at least), only of a new status of large autonomy, with several features to be defined -- citizenship, national symbols,... and flag.

[The use of the Kanaky flag] has been proposed by Kanak independentists, but I am pretty sure that it would not be accepted by most other groups. IMHO, a flag which was designed for an independent country should not be used for an autonomous one if independence is not firmly scheduled (at least not on a purely Kanak basis), even if its main features are to be used.
Thanh-Tâm Lê, 12 January 1999

Always according to the E.U., the main political parties in N-C. are (with between brackets their percentage of votes in provincial election of 1989):

- independentists:

FLNKS (28.6%)
LKS (3.9%) ("Lib&eaute;ration kanake socialiste), satellite of FLNKS, both promoting a "Kanak independence"
other parties promoting independence (1%)

- promoting maintenance of the territory in French Republic:
RPCR (44.5%) ("Rassemblement pour la Calédonie dans la République"), under influence of the metropolitan RPR ("Rassemblement pour la République")
FN/FC (9.3%) ("Front National"/"Front Calédonien)
other parties (8.8%)
Wallis party (3.9%)

The territory is divided in three provinces (North, Loyauté islands; and South), FLNKS being dominant in the North and Loyauté islands: (more than 60%) and RPCR in the South (more than 50%) These figures match more or less the ethnical deiversity (Melanesians vs. Europenas) in the three regions.
Ivan Sache, 22 May 1999