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Kanak Leader Calls For Vigilance On Decolonisation

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SUVA, May 23 (Oceania Flash) - In spite of a generally smooth autonomy process in the French territory of New Caledonia, there is a need to remain vigilant, pro-independence FLNKS party delegates told a United Nations decolonisation seminar last week in Fiji.

Members of a United Nations' Decolonisation Committee met this month in the Fiji Islands in order to review the so-called decolonisation list and hear reports on the 17 "non-self governing territories" it includes, the UN said in a statement this week.

The meeting, which was held in Nadi (West of Fiji's main island of Viti Levu), focused on the global list of 17 territories.

In the Pacific, this includes New Caledonia (France), East Timor (currently under UN mandate, formerly an Indonesian possession), Guam (United States), Pitcairn (United Kingdom), Tokelau (New Zealand) and American Samoa.

Déwé Gorodey, as vice-president of New Caledonia's territorial government, took part in the meeting.

She reviewed progress achieved in the French Pacific territory since the signing of the Nouméa Accord in 1998.

Gorodei's assistant Charles Wéa told Radio Australia’s Pacific Beat after the meeting that although the Nouméa accord seemed to be "going well", some problems still remained to be ironed out, such as the implementation of power-sharing provisions of the pact.

The Matignon accords were signed in 1988 between pro and anti-independence leaders, FLNKS (Kanak Socialist National Liberation Front) Kanak leader Jean-Marie Tjibaou and RPCR (Rally for New Caledonia within the French Republic) leader Jacques Lafleur.

At the time, it ended years of civil unrest in the French territory.

In 1989, charismatic Tjibaou was murdered by a hard-liner within his own ranks.

In 1998, another pact, the Nouméa accord, was signed between FLNKS leader Roch Wamytan, Lafleur and then French Prime minister Lionel Jospin.

It stressed such concepts as "common destiny" for all peoples of New Caledonia, power-sharing among leaders of all ethnic groups and the specificity of the Kanak people as the original occupants of those islands.

The Nouméa accord also set out a possibility for New Caledonia's independence in "15 to 20 years" after the signing.

Wéa also stressed that recently, economic co-operation agreements had been signed with neighbouring Vanuatu and Australia.

But FLNKS representative in Nadi, Charles Washetyine, said the need remained, however, to remain vigilant and keep monitoring the process.

"It is actually important to have such a body as the UN decolonisation committee to monitor the accord's implementation from an external point of view", he said.

Washetyine however admits some significant progress has been made and that the Nouméa accord, in other areas such as economic development, seemed to be working, especially in terms of "re-balancing" the notorious unequal distribution of wealth between New Caledonia's Northern and Southern provinces.

This, according to Washetyine, was partly due to a current boom in the nickel mining sector.

The gradual transfer of powers from metropolitan France to local authorities (as enshrined in the Nouméa accord) had already started, he acknowledged.

But he pointed out some areas needed special attention, such as immigration matters which was sensitive because local employment needed to be given priority.

"Kanaks have been marginalised by the colonisation process, they are now a minority", he said, adding it was now "crucial" that employment is guaranteed both for Kanaks and Caldoche (the descendants from the early French settlers) who are both "victims of history".

"There's a lot of work still ahead", he said.


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