Melanesian Leaders rally behind Kanaky in fight for self-determination

Compiled by Sabrina Tabi

Leaders from Melanesia have spoken out, expressing their support and sympathy for the Kanaky people as they fight for their sovereignty.

The United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP), former Vanuatu Prime Minister (PM) Maxime Carlot, and chiefs from TAFEA Province in Vanuatu, have issued strong messages of solidarity, condemning ongoing colonial actions and proposed electoral changes in New Caledonia.

West Papua Stands with Kanaky: ULMWP President Benny Wenda Condemns French Colonial Actions

The ULMWP has issued a powerful message of support to the people of Kanaky and the leadership of the Front de Libération Nationale Kanak et Socialiste (FLNKS).

President for the ULMWP, Benny Wenda, condemned the ongoing colonial actions in Kanaky and the proposed electoral changes being debated in the French Parliament, which he argues would severely harm Kanaky’s right to self-determination.

“What’s happening in Kanaky is modern-day colonialism,” Wenda stated. “The proposed changes in the French Parliament threaten Kanaky’s right to decide its own future. The ULMWP stands with Kanaky and sends its deepest sympathy and support. You are not alone; the people of West Papua, Melanesia, and the wider Pacific are with you.

“I have always said that the Kanak struggle is the West Papuan struggle, and vice versa. Our bond is special because we share an experience of colonialism that most nations have already overcome. While colonialism ended in Africa and the Caribbean, it still exists in the Pacific,” Wenda explained.

Emphasising the strong bond between the struggles of the Kanak and West Papuan people, Wenda expressed condolences to the families affected by the recent crisis, highlighting the long history of occupation and the ongoing struggle for self-determination in Kanaky.

He proudly mentioned the 2022 Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed with the FLNKS, affirming the unity of the Melanesian family.

Wenda called on all Melanesian leaders to support the FLNKS’ struggle against France and urged solidarity from all Pacific nations, including Micronesia and Polynesia.

“I hope all Melanesian leaders and our brothers and sisters across the Pacific will stand up and show solidarity for Kanaky in this critical time. The world is watching. Will the Pacific speak out with one unified voice against modern-day colonialism inflicted on their neighbors?” he asked.

“To all Kanaks and the FLNKS, never give up; never surrender. Fight until you are free. Though the journey is long, one day our flags will be raised together on liberated Melanesian soil, and we will celebrate our independence together.”

Former Vanuatu PM Maxime Carlot’s heartfelt message to New Caledonia

Maxime Carlot, a former PM, State Minister, and Speaker of Parliament of Vanuatu, has also echoed similar heartfelt message to the people of New Caledonia amid the tragic events.

“To all the diverse communities of New Caledonia, including the indigenous Melanesian-Kanak people, I express my deepest condolences for the lives lost in the recent tragic events,” Carlot began. “The loss of life, pain, and suffering are unacceptable tragedies. We must unite in compassion and mutual support during these difficult times.”

The veteran politician extended his sympathies to families suffering from both personal and material losses, stating that while belongings can be replaced, the pain of losing loved ones is profound “and I sympathise with your sorrow”.

Drawing on the historical bond between New Caledonia and Vanuatu, he said the events in New Caledonia deeply affect Vanuatu.

“The relationship between New Caledonia and Vanuatu is rooted in a long and rich history, dating back to our earliest ancestors and continuing to this day,” he said. “What happens in New Caledonia deeply affects us, and it is our shared responsibility to seek peaceful and sustainable solutions to these challenges.”

Calling for all parties to come together for dialogue and consensus, Mr. Carlot invoked the wisdom of New Caledonian leaders Jacques Lafleur and Jean-Marie Tjibaou, whose words symbolize the need for unity and respect for democratic processes.

“Lafleur said, ‘Caledonia remains French but decided by everyone,’ while Tjibaou said, ‘Caledonia should be independent but decided by everyone.’ Their visions of a New Caledonia decided by all should guide our actions,” he said.

He reminded everyone of the symbolic handshake statue inaugurated in Noumea in 2022, representing peace and the legacies of Lafleur and Tjibaou. “This statue reminds us of the importance of their contributions to New Caledonia’s history,” said Mr. Carlot.

Quoting Nelson Mandela, the former PM urged, “What unites us must be stronger than what divides us.” He called for a spirit of dialogue and mutual respect, noting the importance of the Caledonian people’s will.

“A democratic and inclusive process, such as a referendum conducted calmly and serenely, is essential for determining New Caledonia’s future,” he said.

He concluded by stressing that New Caledonia’s history and future must be shaped by its residents “by working together in a spirit of consensus and peace, we can build a better future for all”.

TAFEA Chiefs demand France withdraw Constitutional Bill

The chiefs of TAFEA Province in Southern Vanuatu have also declared their strong support for Kanaky in the current political crisis.

The chiefs, representing the islands of Tanna, Aniwa, Futuna, Erromango, and Aneityum, have called on France to withdraw the constitutional bill that would unfreeze the electorate in New Caledonia.

Emphasising the close cultural and historical ties between the peoples of TAFEA and Kanaky, the TAFEA chiefs expressed their heartfelt condolences to all affected families in the recent unrest in New Caledonia that has led to tragic loss of life, causing deep sorrow among the Kanaky people.

“The people of TAFEA and Kanaky share deep cultural, kinship, and historical connections that span thousands of years,” the chiefs stated. “Our ancestors were subdued and our lands annexed by European powers. Today, France’s ongoing colonisation of Kanaky continues to ignore our cultural sovereignties.”

The chiefs condemned the recent mobilisation of additional security forces and the ban on social media platform TikTok, viewing them as repressive measures against Kanaky voices. They stressed that the human rights and sovereignty of Kanaky should not be decided by legislators in Paris.

“The sovereignty of Kanaky is on the United Nations’ decolonisation agenda and has always been supported by the Vanuatu Government, the Melanesian Spearhead Group, and the Pacific Islands Forum,” they noted. “France needs to listen to the Kanak people and heed the voices from across the Pacific who support Kanaky’s independence.”

Recalling the visit of French President Emmanuel Macron to Vanuatu in 2023, the chiefs highlighted his remarks on sovereignty and independence in Oceania. They urged Macron to apply the same respect to Kanaky.

“As proud members of the independent Republic of Vanuatu, we will not rest until Kanaky’s sovereignty is peacefully returned,” they declared.

The chiefs outlined specific demands as follows: Immediate withdrawal of the constitutional bill to unfreeze the electorate; engagement in mediation dialogue facilitated by neutral parties such as the UN, Pacific Islands Forum, and the Melanesian Spearhead Group; Respect for the decolonisation process and the rights of New Caledonia’s indigenous peoples; and control over the build-up of local militias and additional security forces, urging a ban on firearms.

“We urge everyone in Kanaky to respect customary laws and support peace during this crisis. Our lands, sea, and skies hold the spirit of our ancestors and future generations. We will not rest until peace is restored and cultural sovereignties are respected,” the chiefs stated. 

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