Thursday, December 09, 2021

The New Caledonia referendum

This weekend, France will be holding an independence referendum in New Caledonia. Normally this would be something to celebrate, part of the decolonisation process which should hopefully result in a peaceful transition to self-rule. Except that France is holding this referendum against the wishes of New Caledonia's indigenous people, who have called it a "declaration of war".

The problem is timing. Holding a referendum in the middle of a pandemic is obviously suboptimal. Holding a referendum in the middle of a pandemic which has killed more than 200 people (and overwhelmingly Kanaks) in a culture with a prolonged mourning period is even worse. The pro-independence parties have asked that the referendum be delayed. When that was refused, they have decided to boycott it. The outcome will be a foregone conclusion, but also not remotely representative of the wishes of New Caledonia's people.

Because of this, our Pacific neighbours have been pushing for a delay. Today, the Melanesian Spearhead Group Secretariat (representing Fiji, the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and PNG) called for its members to refuse to recognise the result. The obvious question for Aotearoa is whether we will support them? Does the New Zealand government support actual decolonisation and self-determination in the Pacific, or a continuation of colonial rule?