Three dead in New Caledonia as riots rage after Paris approves voting change

“Our consulate-general in Noumea is advising Australians in New Caledonia to minimise movements, monitor the media and follow the advice of local authorities,” he told parliament on Wednesday.

“Australia values very much our relationship with both New Caledonia and the French state.

“We respect and support the process and discussions underway between all parties.”

The French government said the change in voting rules, which MPs backed by 351 to 153 in favour, was needed so elections would be democratic in the country’s territory.

Macron has offered to hold dialogue between New Caledonia’s pro- and anti-independence camps before a special congress of the two houses of parliament rubber-stamps the bill.

The major pro-independence political group, Front de Liberation Nationale Kanak et Socialiste (FLNKS), said in a statement on Wednesday it would accept Macron’s offer of dialogue and was willing to work toward an agreement “that would allow New Caledonia to follow its path toward emancipation”.

On Wednesday morning, Lilou Garrido Navarro Kherachi, 19, drove around protestor blockades in Noumea and saw burning cars and buildings, including a ruined veterinary clinic where the neighbours had evacuated the animals before the fire spread.

Police were outnumbered by protestors, she told Reuters.

“The real problem is the youngsters who trash, burn and loot. We didn’t see any police deployed on site,” she said.

French retailer Decathlon said in a statement its New Caledonia store had been vandalised, looted and burnt overnight, after 10 years of trading.

The New Caledonia government said in a statement schools would stay closed after some were damaged.

Macron condemned the violence and called for calm in a letter addressed to officials in New Caledonia that was published on the Facebook account of one lawmaker. The FLNKS also condemned the violence and called for protestors to lift road blocks.

“Residents are terrorised, armed and organising themselves to make the rounds tonight and protect their homes,” Garrido Navarro Kherachi said, adding gunfire could be heard in her neighbourhood.

Most residents were staying indoors. With stores closed breastfeeding mothers were organising to share milk with mothers who have none left to feed their babies, she said.

Garrido Navarro Kherachi moved to New Caledonia when she was eight years old, and has never been back to France. Although eligible to vote under the new rules, she says she won’t “out of respect for the Kanak people”.

“That would give me the right to vote but I don’t feel I know enough about the history of Caledonia and the struggle of the Kanak people to allow me to vote,” she said.

She said she is fearful for the future of the island nation, which she called “a wonderful country where all ethnic groups live together”.

“I don’t know if the situation will improve.”

Reuters, AAP, AP

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