Independence for Kanaky: A media and political stalemate or a ‘three strikes’ Frexit challenge?
The French-ruled territory of New Caledonia, or Kanaky, as Indigenous pro-independence campaigners call their cigar-shaped islands, voted on their political future on 4 November 2018 amid controversy and tension. This was an historic vote on independence in a ‘three-strikes’ scenario in the territory ruled by France since 1853, originally as a penal colony for convicts and political dissidents. In the end, the vote was remarkably close, reflecting the success of the pro-independence Kanak and Socialist National Liberation Front (FLNKS) in mobilising voters, particularly the youth. The referendum choice was simple and stark. Voters simply had to respond ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to the question: ‘Do you want New Caledonia to attain full sovereignty and become independent?’ In spite of prophecies of an overwhelming negative vote, the ‘no’ response slipped to a 56.4 percent vote while the ‘yes’ vote wrested a credible 43.6 percent share with a record turnout of almost 81 percent. New Caledonia is expected to face two further votes on the independence question in 2020 and 2022. The author of this article reported as a journalist on an uprising against French rule in the 1980s, known by the euphemism ‘les Évènements’ (‘the Events’). He returned there three decades later as an academic to bear witness to the vote and examine the role of digital media and youth. This article reflects on his impressions of the result, democracy and the future.
The following references have been extracted and will be linked to the submission metadata.
New Caledonian independence referendum (n.d.). Wikipedia. Retrieved on April 4, 2019, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1987_New_Caledonian_independence_referendum
Archy News (2018, November 3). Referendum in New Caledonia: ‘The fear is great that China will take over the islands’. Retrieved on November 3, 2018, from www.archynety.com/news/referendum-in-new-caledonia-the-fear-is-great-that-china-will-take-over-the-islands/
Armbruster, S. (2018, December 19). After 165 years of French colonisation, New Caledonia’s Kanaks could win independence. SBS Television News. Retrieved from https://www.sbs.com.au/news/after-165-years-of-french-colonisation-new-caledonia-s-kanaks-could-win-independence
Chanter, A. (1998). A better way forward: research on media and violence in the Pacific. Asia Pacific Media Educator, 4, 8-23. Retrieved from https://ro.uow.edu.au/apme/vol1/iss4/2/
Chappell. D. (1999). The Noumea accord: Decolonization without independence in New Caledonia? Pacific Affairs, 72(3), 373-391. doi 10.2307/2672227
Duffield, L. (2018, July 27). New Caledonia celebrates Bastille Day and thinks about independence [First of a 3 part series]. Asia Pacific Report. Retrieved from https://asiapacificreport.nz/2018/07/27/new-caledonia-celebrates-bastille-day-and-thinks-about-independence/
Electoral law change approved for New Caledonia referendum (2018, March 21). RNZ Pacific. Retrieved on February 23, 2019, from www.radionz.co.nz/international/pacific-news/353024/electoral-law-change-approved-for-new-caledonia-referendum
Fisher, D. (2018a, November 5). New Caledonia votes to stay with France this time, but independence supporters take heart. The Conversation. Retrieved on February 10, 2019, from https://theconversation.com/new-caledonia-votes-to-stay-with-france-this-time-but-independence-supporters-take-heart-106329
Fisher, D. (2018b, November 8). New Caledonia’s independence referendum: A reminder of realities. The Interpreter (Lowy Institute). Retrieved on February 10, 2019, from www.lowyinstitute.org/the-interpreter/new-caledonia-independence-referendum-reminder-realities
Fisher, D. (2019, May 8). New Caledonia’s independence referendum: Local and regional implications. Lowy Institute. Retrieved on June 9, 2019, from https://www.lowyinstitute.org/publications/new-caledonia-s-independence-referendum-local-and-regional-implications
France 24 (2018, November 5). New Caledonia referendum leaves independence movement hopeful. Retrieved on February 10, 2019, from https://www.france24.com/en/20181105-france-new-caledonia-referendum-leaves-independence-movement-hopeful
Girardin comment causes outrage in New Caledonia (2019, January 8). RNZ Pacific. Retrieved on April 4, 2019, from www.radionz.co.nz/international/pacific-news/379681/girardin-comment-causes-outrage-in-new-caledonia
Kanaks have already lost, says PCC. (2018, August 8). RNZ Pacific. Retrieved on October 26, 2018, from www.radionz.co.nz/international/pacific-news/363583/kanaks-have-already-lost-new-caledonia-referendum-says-pcc
Leadbeater, M. (2009, March 11). The SIS and the Philippines solidarity movement. Scoop. Retrieved on April 4, 2019, from www.scoop.co.nz/stories/HL0903/S00145.htm
Louise Takamatsu, figure et photographe de Canala, est décédée. (2019, February 20). Les Nouvelles Calédoniennes. Retrieved on February 21, 2019, from www.lnc.nc/article/nouvelle-caledonie/louise-takamatsu-figure-et-photographe-de-canala-est-decedee
L’ordre et la morale (2011). Director: Mathieu Kassovitz [Feature film trailer]. Nord Ouest Films. Retrieved on October 26, 2018, at www.youtube.com/watch?v=30IqmDHUguM
Lyons, K. (2018, July 17). New Caledonia referendum: Call to reject ‘colonising power’ France. The Guardian. Retrieved on October 26, 2018, from www.theguardian.com/world/2018/jul/17/new-caledonia-referendum-call-to-reject-colonising-power-france
Maclellan, N. (2018, November 14). Independence thwarted for now, in French Pacific. New Internationalist. Retrieved on February 23, 2019, from https://newint.org/features/2018/11/14/independence-thwarted-now-french-pacific
Macron hails New Caledonia vote to remain French’ (2018, November 5). Al Jazeera English. Retrieved on February 26, 2019, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qFP_XcTEHeM
Maume, A. (2018a, September). Référendum en Nouvelle-Calédonie : les habitants du Caillou face à leur destin, Geo France. Retrieved on November 8, 2018, from https://www.geo.fr/voyage/referendum-en-nouvelle-caledonie-les-habitants-du-caillou-face-a-leur-destin-192912
Maume, A. (2018b, September). Histoire de la Nouvelle-Calédonie : le Caillou en 16 dates clés, Geo France. Retrieved on November 8, 2019, from https://www.geo.fr/histoire/histoire-de-la-nouvelle-caledonie-le-caillou-en-16-dates-cles-192910
Menango, D. (2019, May 18). New ‘anti’ force shakes up New Caledonian political landscape. Asia Pacific Report. Retrieved on June 9, 2019, from https://asiapacificreport.nz/2019/05/18/new-anti-force-shakes-up-new-caledonian-political-landscape/
New Caledonia anti-independence parties join forces (2018, February 21). RNZ Pacific. Retrieved on April 4, 2019, from www.radionz.co.nz/international/pacific-news/383017/new-caledonia-anti-independence-parties-join-forces
New Caledonia Labour Party opts out (2018, July 16). RNZ Pacific. Retrieved on February 23, 2019, from www.radionz.co.nz/international/pacific-news/361877/new-caledonia-labour-party-opts-out-of-independence-referendum
New Caledonia rejects independence from France (2018, November 5). SBS News. Retrieved on November 6, 2018, from https://www.sbs.com.au/news/new-caledonia-rejects-independence-from-france
Peace Brigades International (n.d.). Precedents of Peace Brigades International. Retrieved on April 4, 2019, from www.peacebrigades.org/en/about-pbi/pbi-history/precedents-of-pbi
Poisson, O. (2018, November 3). La France ou l’inconnu? Les Nouvelles Calédoniennes, p. 2. Retrieved on November 3, 2018, from www.lnc.nc
Référendum 2018 - Haut-Commissariat de la République en Nouvelle (2018). Retrieved on January 17, 2019, from www.nouvelle-caledonie.gouv.fr/Politiques-publiques/Elections-2018/Referendum-2018
Référendum de 2018 sur l'indépendance de la Nouvelle-Calédonie (n.d.). Wikipédia France. Retrieved on February 23, 2019, from https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/R%C3%A9f%C3%A9rendum_de_2018_sur_l%27ind%C3%A9pendance_de_la_Nouvelle-Cal%C3%A9donie
Référendum en Nouvelle-Calédonie: pourquoi les «Zoreille» n'ont pas le droit de voter (2018, November 3). Slate France. Retrieved on February 23, 2019, from www.slate.fr/story/169377/referendum-nouvelle-caledonie-liste-electorale-exclu-zoreille-caldoche-kanak
Robie, D. (1984). Elections fury splits a nation: the elections are over, but the Kanak protest burns on. Islands Business, 10(11), 10-12. Retrieved on October 26, 2018, from www.library.usp.ac.fj/cgi-bin/spydus.exe/
Robie, D. (1986). Eyes of fire: The last voyage of the Rainbow Warrior. Auckland: Lindon Books.
Robie, D. (1988). Och världen blunder … Kampen för frihet i Stilla Havet (And the world closed its eyes …). [Translated by Margareta Eklöf]. Höganäs, Sweden: Wiken Books.
Robie, D. (1989a). Blood on their Banner: Nationalist struggles in the South Pacific. London: Zed Books.
Robie, D. (1989b). The massacre of Hienghène. In Robie, Blood on their Banner: Nationalist struggles in the South Pacific (pp. 105-126) London: Zed Books.
Robie, D. (2014). Don’t spoil my beautiful face: Media, mayhem and human rights in the Pacific. Auckland: Little Island Press.
Robie, D. (2018a, November 1). Flashback to Kanaky in the 1980s – ‘Blood on their Banner’. Asia Pacific Report. Retrieved on February 26, 2019, from https://asiapacificreport.nz/2018/11/01/flashback-to-kanaky-in-the-1980s-blood-on-their-banner/
Robie, D. (2018b, November 6). New Caledonia blockade tension fails to mar French PM’s talks on future. Asia Pacific Report. Retrieved on February 26, 2019, from https://asiapacificreport.nz/2018/11/06/new-caledonia-blockade-tension-fails-to-mar-french-pms-talks-on-future/
Robie, D. (2018c, November 7). New Caledonia vote stirs painful memories – and a hopeful future. Asia Pacific Report. Retrieved on February 26, 2019, from https://asiapacificreport.nz/2018/11/07/new-caledonia-vote-stirs-painful-memories-and-a-hopeful-future/
Robie, D. (2018d, November 8). Kanaky independence campaign rolls on … encouraged by ballot result. Asia Pacific Report. Retrieved on February 26, 2019, from https://asiapacificreport.nz/2018/11/08/kanaky-independence-campaign-rolls-on-encouraged-by-ballot-result/
Tingal Lémé, M. (2018, November 8). Retrieved from Facebook on November 8, 2018, from www.facebook.com/princess.maly.1
Uechtritz, M. (2018, May 7). Blood in the Pacific: 30 years on from the Ouvéa Island cave massacre. Asia Pacific Report. Retrieved on February 26, 2019, from https://asiapacificreport.nz/2018/05/07/blood-in-the-pacific-30-years-on-from-the-ouvea-island-massacre/
Zweifel, W. (2018, August 10). Support for New Caledonia independence on the wane. RNZ Pacific. Retrieved on October 28, 2018, from www.radionz.co.nz/international/pacific-news/363739/support-for-new-caledonia-independence-on-the-wane
Zweifel, W. (2019, June 6). New Caledonia anti-independence side fears losing control. RNZ Dateline Pacific. Retrieved on June 9, 2019, from https://www.rnz.co.nz/international/programmes/datelinepacific/audio/2018698416/new-caledonia-anti-independence-side-fears-losing-control
Copyright (c) 2019 David Robie
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.
Authors submitting articles for publication warrant that the work is not an infringement of any existing copyright and will indemnify the publisher against any breach of such warranty. By publishing in Pacific Journalism Review, the author(s) agree to the dissemination of their work through Pacific Journalism Review and on the PJR databases.
By publishing in Pacific Journalism Review, the authors grant the Journal a Creative Commons nonexclusive worldwide license for electronic dissemination of the article via the internet, and, a nonexclusive right to license others to reproduce, republish, transmit, and distribute the content of the journal. The authors grant the Journal the right to transfer content (without changing it), to any medium or format necessary for the purpose of preservation.
Authors agree that the Journal will not be liable for any damages, costs, or losses whatsoever arising in any circumstances from its services, including damages arising from the breakdown of technology and difficulties with access.