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France declares state of emergency in New Caledonia after deadly riots

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NEW DELHI: France on Wednesday declared a state of emergency in New Caledonia, a Pacific Island, following deadly riots sparked by protests against electoral reform, according to Reuters report.
This measure grants authorities additional powers to control gatherings and restrict movement across the French-administered territory.
The unrest ensued after lawmakers in Paris passed a bill permitting French residents residing in New Caledonia for a decade to vote in provincial elections.This move raised concerns among local leaders about the potential dilution of the Kanak indigenous community’s voting influence.
Prime Minister Gabriel Attal emphasized the severity of the violence, vowing not to tolerate further unrest. The state of emergency, slated to last for 12 days, aims to restore order through bolstered security measures. “Since the start of the week, New Caledonia has been hit by violence of a rare intensity. No violence will be tolerated,” said Prime Minister Gabriel Attal. He further added that the state of emergency “will allow us to roll out massive means to restore order.”
The riots resulted in four casualties, three young indigenous Kanak people and a 24-year-old police officer who succumbed to gunshot wounds. The escalation prompted a surge in police presence and the imposition of a curfew in the capital.
Lilou Garrido Navarro Kherachi, 19, witnessed a scene of fear and vigilance as she navigated around protester barricades in the capital Noumea on Wednesday morning. “Residents are feeling terrorized, arming themselves, and mobilizing to patrol their neighborhoods tonight to safeguard their homes,” she said.
The discord over electoral reform amplifies longstanding tensions regarding France’s role in New Caledonia, marked by periodic calls for independence. The island’s significant nickel mining industry and economic inequalities further exacerbate the underlying grievances.
While the French government argues that the voting changes are necessary for democracy, it has expressed openness to dialogue with both pro- and anti-independence factions, potentially delaying the implementation of the bill.
Despite the tumult, there are calls for reconciliation and understanding. Some residents, like witness Garrido Navarro Kherachi, opt not to exercise their newfound voting rights out of respect for the Kanak people and a desire to comprehend the island’s complex history better.

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