PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT

Pacific Islands Development Program/East-West Center
With Support From Center for Pacific Islands Studies/University of Hawai‘i


Commentary

The following speech was delivered by Roch Wamytan, a signatory of the 1998 Noumea accord in New Caledonia and member of the pro-independence Kanak and Socialist National Liberation Front party, before the Fourth Commission of the United Nations on Oct. 10.

NEW CALEDONIA STILL A COLONY DESPITE ACCORD

By Roch Wamytan

NEW YORK (Oct. 10) - Let me begin by congratulating you, Mr. President, for your election and the election of the members of your office who lead this important Commission charged with the issue of decolonization. I would like to acknowledge the work that has been carried out by the United Nations under the leadership of Mr. Kofi Annan concerning issues of world security and the fight against poverty.

With regard to New Caledonia, the UN is very well aware of the history of the Kanak people. In fact, in 1946, our country was included in the list of countries that were to be decolonized; its name was however withdrawn in 1947 under the pressure of France. It was included again, pursuant to Resolution 41-41 A of December 2, 1986, thanks to the work of the FLNKS [Kanak and Socialist National Liberation Front party], which was backed in this struggle by regional organizations such as the "Groupe du fer de lance mélanesien" (The Melanesian Spearhead Group), the Pacific Forum, and the Nonaligned Countries Movement. Since 1986, the representatives of the Kanak people and the Government of New Caledonia have come to express their hopes and expectations before your Commission. I have done this as Vice-President, then President of the FLNKS and today, as signatory of the Noumea Agreement. I would also like to speak on behalf of the Rheebu Nuu Committee and the Autochthonous Council on Natural Resources.

[PIR editor’s note: The Noumea accord, signed by France in 1998, allows a degree of autonomy to New Caledonia over a transition period of up to 20 years. New Caledonians are due to vote on independence from France between the years 2013 and 2018.]

The destabilizing maneuverings orchestrated by nostalgic groups of the former French colonial empire have practically imploded the FLNKS, which embodies our future emerging State. Nevertheless, the FLNKS must reorganize itself since the fight for emancipation has not ended. For 152 years, the French State has always opposed independence by means of various forms of oppression.

The State will always oppose the French Constitution vis-à-vis international law. Neither the Decolonization Charter of 1960, nor the annexed Resolutions and Plans of Action adopted by the General Assembly on the occasion of the two decades for the eradication of colonization: 1991 -2000 and 2001 – 2010 (Resolution Number 55/146, of December 8, 2000) have not been respected by this administering power.

The independence of our country is non negotiable, only the stages leading to it are. It is in this direction that the leaders of the United Nations continue to call out on the supervising authorities in order to accelerate the process of accession to independence of Non-Autonomous Territories. The declarations made on February 12, 2003, by the United Nations’ General Secretary, Mr. Kofi Annan, during the opening of the session of the Decolonization Committee are unambiguous: "We must close this unachieved chapter of history", or even the declarations made during the opening of the session of the same Committee on February 14, 2004: "In the 21st century, colonialism is an anachronism." The President of the Special Committee even added that "colonialism is a remnant of the past".

It is in this frame of mind that the FLNKS signed on May 5, 1998, the Noumea Agreement together with France and the RPCR.

Contrary to what some high dignitaries affirm, the Noumea Agreement is not a peace agreement; it is in fact a decolonization agreement under international law. On this count, any evolution toward independence is under the supervision of the United Nations. Given the settlement of colonial litigations, this Agreement must put the Kanak people back at the core of the process, ensure the political and economic emancipation of the country, and monitor the emergence of a common awareness with regard to Caledonian citizenship. That is why the FLNKS demands a strict application of the Agreement which must be respected in the letter and spirit of the text.

It is upsetting to notice that seven years and a half after the signature of this agreement on May 5, 1998, the main affairs concerned are in a state of deadlock.

The Kanak individual must be at the core of the process, he remains nonetheless marginalized. This marginalization has increased in certain key sectors of society.

The European settlement policies have continued despite the promises of the most eminent French political leaders such as Michel Roccard, signatory of the Matignon Agreement in 1988.

This policy of Metropolitan settlement continues in 2005, under the guise of the reinforcement of bonds between Metropolitan France and the collectivities overseas. The French Government has just granted US$4.5 million to help residents buy round-trip tickets for France. This measure will especially benefit the people from Metropolitan France who have just settled in New Caledonia. France continues to pay the costs of its European settlement policy despite of international Law.

This massive immigration, arising in the wake of the big metallurgic and tax-exemption projects, regards essentially the South Province. The haunting shadow of partition is embodied by a population that is mostly European in this Province. This well-known scenario failed in Vanuatu in 1980, but was successful for Mayotte in the Comoros Islands in 1975 as a result of the auto-determination referendum. This can be reason enough for the Kanak people to denounce this agreement and be under the protection of the UN, as it was the case for East Timor before its independence.

This situation has heightened the disintegration of the Kanak society, with all the blights it entails: loss of cultural references, marginalization of the youth …

Concerning Kanak education and employment, the lack of success of Kanak children in French school and university programs has been noticed for some decades now.

In general terms, the school remains an elitist establishment with regard to the award of diplomas, even if many resources have been put into place. After 152 years of colonization, there has not been a single Kanak lawyer who is member of the Noumea Bar Association, only one university professor, three doctors, and some ten engineers.

Despite the importance of this measure, local employment is still not protected by the law of the land. Even in the civil service, the number of Kanak individuals admitted to the State examinations has drastically diminished. In the private sector, few companies have established a real partnership with a system of 400 executives (since 1988) and future executives (since 1999) in which the objective aimed at readjusting the number of Kanak people in supervisory positions; hence the current call for immigration.

Real Estate in detriment of the Kanak people.

The Noumea Agreement recognized the need of satisfying land claims in semi-urban areas and acted on the principle to give appropriate means to the ADRAF. However, the budget for land purchase of this State organization was set for 2005 to US$1.1 million. With this amount of money, the capacity for land purchase stands at about 150 hectares of land at the price of the are, especially in the suburban areas, a drop of water amid all the lands claimed by the Kanak clans. The need for land among the Kanak people is especially obvious in the South Province where a big number of clans have seen their legitimate claims rejected in the name of economic development or a growing urbanization.

Near Noumea, in the municipality of Dumbea, in Paita or Bowrail, real estate operations intended for urban development consider as insignificant the number of claims brought forward by the descendants of the clans who were driven away from their lands since the beginning of colonization. Kanak officials have been brought before the courts and condemned for having defended their lands.

The Kanak people have been forced to fight in order to defend their environment. Since 1880, more than 2 million tons of nickel have been extracted from the mountains.

For 125 years, the country has been drained and polluted, the mountains have been shattered, forests swallowed up, rivers and lagoons have become sterile and muddy. The fauna, flora, biodiversity, marine, aquatic and earth ecosystems have been destroyed. Villages and tribes have been displaced and the great mining centers, still running or not, portray an image of desolation. At present, there is no environmental code and the current regulations and mining police date back to the 1950’s. For now, no sustainable program for rehabilitation of the polluted sites has been established by the institutions of New Caledonia and the State. The clans and chefferies, and the mining villages have received no compensation.

On a political level, the regulations concerning the RIGHT to vote in the provincial elections have been delayed. This right was reserved to the people of the country and was arbitrarily extended to the new comers, while it constitutes the balancing point of the architecture of the Noumea Agreement. During his visit to Noumea in 2003, Jacques Chirac promised to settle this issue before the end of his mandate.

The Committee of signatories of January 2005 had planned a schedule that has just been postponed until 2006, and it is likely to be postponed sine die because of the presidential elections in France.

Concerning the economy, the power remains in the hands of Non-Kanak people.

The trend is leading toward a strengthening of this control. The Kanak people are absent from this sector. The pretext is that the Kanak people, like South Pacific populations, would have little interest in the management of companies.

The only sector where the Kanak people intervene is mining, and this has been mainly the result of the political fight and the proximity of nickel deposits in customary zones or under customary influence.

After 152 years of colonization, we can observe that the pillaging of natural resources has continued and intensified. This pillaging is detrimental to the exercise of the future right to auto-determination and endangers the viability of the future Kanak State. This entirely contradicts the provisions of Articles 12 and 17, Chapter IV of the Plan of Action.

The Noumea Agreement has provided for in Article 39 of the Organic Law of March 1999, the establishment of a mining scheme, an environmental regulation, and a transparent mining policy before the deadline of January 1, 2004. None of which has been done. At present, three main metallurgic projects are under way (North, South and Noumea). If these projects achieve the objectives they announced, New Caledonia should produce about 1,500,000 tons of nickel for the period 2009 - 2019. At this pace, the resources of our country, called for auto-determination between 2014 and 2019, will quickly run out. In such conditions, how could the populations decide for their future in a country that is completely pillaged and polluted? We are in front of a new offensive by the colonial and neocolonial forces to secure their total involvement in the South Province that may cause partition and industrial and chemical pollution.

In fact, in the absence of an environmental monitoring system, the Inco project in the south has established a chemical treatment based on sulfuric acids with the approval of the South Province and the French State through exorbitant dispensations concerning the respect of regulations for heavy metal dumping at sea and atmospheric waste. In addition to this, basic environmental studies are not carried out properly and remain insufficient.

The current policy of non respect of the Noumea Agreement and the provisions stipulated by international law, the industrial pollution in the South Pacific region will considerably increase. Are the countries of the Melanesian Spearhead Group and the Pacific Forum aware of this risk? Have they been at least officially informed, as is provided for in the Apia and Noumea conventions?

Confronted with these potential risks, the Kanak Chefferies have organized themselves and created two structures: the Rheebu Nuu Committee for the South and the Autochthonous Council for the management of Natural Resources.

Concerning the Inco’s southern factory, the Rheebu Nuu Committee reckons that it represents the creation of a real industrial dumpster in the south of New Caledonia. Once again, it is all about big money, the Goro nickel playing here the same role as during the famous nickel boom of 1968 -1972 that lured more than 40,000 people into New Caledonia and drowned the nationalistic claims of the Kanak and Caledonian people.

It is therefore urgent to establish a monitoring and follow-up system for the previous contracts signed between multinationals and municipalities, by drawing on the initiatives of Global Witness and asking the UN to put in place an ad hoc commission in order to protect the wealth of New Caledonia, following the example of what was done for Congo.

As a conclusion of this presentation, I am calling for the vigilance of your organization with regard to the emancipation process launched in my country. France must be reminded of its role as actor of a successful decolonization in a world undergoing permanent crisis. It must let us the choice to decide of our future and refrain from imposing us a choice according to its own interests. It has the capacity to do so, thanks to its genius, acknowledged in the entire world.

The future of the Kanak people, a colonized people, is under your responsibility. Help our people to terminate colonialism, this historical parenthesis, with dignity. Do not let the Kanak people sunk in the dumps of history. Following the initiative taken by some FLNKS officials, as signatory of the Noumea Agreement, I support the proposal to organize the next UN decolonization seminar in Noumea in 2006. I finally request that due to the drifts in the Noumea Agreement, the UN set up a mission in New Caledonia, it did in 1999.

I am also speaking on behalf of the President of French Polynesia, Oscar Temaru, whom I met last Saturday in Tahiti, so that the UN may review the issue of putting French Polynesia back on the list of countries to decolonize.

Roch Wamytan, a signatory of the Noumea accord, is a member of the pro-independence Kanak and Socialist National Liberation Front party (FLNKS).

October 27, 2005


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