Additional French security forces help reduce violent unrest in New Caledonia

The number of violent incidents reported in the French Pacific territory of New Caledonia fell slightly on Friday, a day after France imposed a state of emergency as 1,000 promised reinforcements for security services were deployed with increased powers to quell unrest in the archipelago that has long sought independence. The top French official in the territory, High Commissioner Louis Le Franc, announced stringent measures Friday under the state of emergency declared by France. In light of severe public order disturbances, a curfew from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. is now in effect. The overnight curfew was extended for the duration of the state of emergency, which will be in place for at least 11 days. French military forces were deployed to protect ports and airports and free up police troops. “Exceptions to this curfew include essential public service personnel, urgent medical travel, and critical night-time activities,” Le Franc said. He said curfew violations would result in penalties of up to six months in prison and a fine, urging everyone to follow the regulations and help restore order. There have been decades of tensions on the archipelago between Indigenous Kanaks seeking independence and descendants of colonizers who want to remain part of France. Clashes erupted Monday following protests over voting reforms that passed in the National Assembly in Paris. Lawmakers approved changes to the French constitution, spearheaded by the government of President Emmanuel Macron, that would allow residents who have lived in New Caledonia for 10 years to cast ballots in provincial elections. Thierry de Greslan, a representative from the hospital in Noumea, the territory’s capital, expressed concern over the deteriorating situation, worsened by roadblocks in the city. De Greslan, president of the medical commission at Noumea’s Territorial Hospital Center, said: “We estimate that three or four people may have died due to lack of access to medical care,” adding that around 50 dialysis patients had been unable to receive their treatments. “We are having great difficulty bringing our patients and healthcare workers in. Teams have been working since Monday and are exhausted.” The number of visits to emergency rooms dropped significantly, with a 50% decrease recently and an 80% reduction on Thursday. “We are in an urban guerrilla situation with nightly gunshot wounds,” de Greslan said. operating rooms are running around the clock, and while the staff are prepared for immediate crises, de Greslan expressed concern about the future. “We are ready to face this, but I worry about the ‘rebound’ effect on patients not currently receiving care and who are extremely stressed,” he noted. French authorities in New Caledonia and the interior ministry in Paris said five people, including two police officers, were killed after the protests earlier this week. At least 60 members of the security forces were injured and 214 people were arrested over clashes with police, arson and looting Thursday, Le Franc said. Two members of the Kanak community were among five people killed. Leaders of a Kanak Workers Union in Paris appealed for calm and said they were deeply saddened by deaths in their faraway homeland.