France imposes state of emergency on Pacific territory rocked by violence

15 May 2024, 19:04

Vata bay Noumea New Caledonia
France imposes state of emergency on territory. Picture: PA

Four people have died in New Caledonia amid protests over voting changes.

The French government announced on Wednesday it will impose a state of emergency in the French Pacific territory of New Caledonia for at least 12 days, boosting police powers in an attempt to quell deadly unrest that has left four people dead.

French government spokeswoman Prisca Thevenot announced the decision after a Cabinet meeting on Wednesday afternoon in Paris.

It follows days of unrest in the Pacific territory and what Ms Thevenot described as “scenes of chaos”, with four deaths reported, including a member of the security services.

The emergency measures will give authorities greater powers to tackle the unrest, including the possibility of house detention for people deemed a threat to public order.

After successive nights of unrest, French authorities reported the first deaths on Wednesday, with a gendarme among the four people killed.

More than 300 people have been injured since Monday, when protests over voting changes pushed by Paris turned violent.

There have also been more than 130 arrests, French authorities said.

There have been decades of tensions on the archipelago between Indigenous Kanaks seeking independence and descendants of colonisers who want to remain part of France.

After a two-hour security meeting on Wednesday with French President Emmanuel Macron and top ministers, Prime Minister Gabriel Attal told parliament in Paris that the state of emergency would aim “to restore order in the shortest time possible.”

Reinforcements were being rushed in to help security forces that have battled violent protesters.

The Interior Ministry said 500 additional officers were expected within hours on the archipelago to bolster 1,800 police and gendarmes already there.

By Press Association

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