by Douglas F. Roberts, The Chicago Times
December 13, 2021
Nouméa – For the third and final time the French territory of New Caledonia voted against independence from France in a referendum on Sunday.
The indigenous Kanak population, which is mostly pro-independence, has urged for non-participation in the referendum due to a 12-month mourning period following a coronavirus outbreak in September.
According to preliminary data released by French colonial authorities, support for a “no” vote for independence was 96.5 percent, with 43.9 percent voting. Following two earlier votes in 2018 and 2020, in which the “no” vote received 57 percent and 53 percent, Sunday’s vote marks the third and final vote on independence.
“The Caledonians have chosen to maintain their French identity. They made the decision on their own.” French President Emmanuel Macron said in a televised statement.
Roch Wamytan, the president of New Caledonia’s congress and a pro-independence leader, expressed sadness that the French government had rejected their request to postpone the third referendum until September 2022 in order to observe indigenous mourning customs.
New Caledonia is the centerpiece of Macron’s strategy to strengthen France’s power in the Pacific. It is one of five French island possessions across the Indo-Pacific. The referendum on Sunday is the third mandated by a pact reached a decade after talks on the island’s future began in 1988, and which called for a series of referendums on independence.
In the 1980s, fighting broke out between proponents of independence and those who wanted to remain French in the nickel-rich territory 750 miles east of Australia and 12,000 miles from France.