Three dead in New Caledonia as riots rage after Paris approves voting change

  15 May 2024    Read: 1185
Three dead in New Caledonia as riots rage after Paris approves voting change

Three people were killed in riots in New Caledonia, an official said, after a move to change voting rules in the French-ruled Pacific island triggered violent unrest in which vehicles were torched and stores looted, residents said on Wednesday.

The three dead were young indigenous Kanak, said a spokesman for New Caledonia's president Louis Mapou, citing information provided by the police. Some residents have armed themselves to protect their homes, a witness said.

Rioting broke out this week before lawmakers in Paris on Tuesday adopted a bill to allow French residents who have lived in New Caledonia for 10 years to vote in provincial elections - a move some local leaders say will dilute the Kanak vote.

"Residents are terrorised, armed and organising themselves to make the rounds tonight and protect their homes," said Lilou Garrido Navarro Kherachi, 19, who drove on Wednesday morning around protestor blockades in the island's capital Noumea.

She heard gunfire and saw burning cars and buildings, including a ruined veterinary clinic where neighbours had evacuated the animals before the fire spread. Shops and schools remained closed on Wednesday.

Police were outnumbered by protestors, she told Reuters.

"The real problem is the youngsters who trash, burn and loot. We didn't see any police deployed on site," she said.

French President Emmanuel Macron and New Caledonia's Louis Mapou called for calm and dialogue. Macron will chair a crisis meeting on Wednesday. Several politicians urged him to declare a state of emergency.

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