FLNKS wants New Caledonia referendum in October or November
23 May, 2020, 2:04 pm
New Caledonia’s pro-independence FLNKS movement has asked Paris for the referendum on independence from France to be deferred by about two months because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The plebiscite is due on 6 September, but the FLNKS leaders said they wanted it to be rescheduled for either 25 October of 1 November.
The FLNKS argued Covid-19 impacted on the calendar by prompting a delay of the municipal elections by three months and that they didn’t want to mix up the local election campaign with the referendum debate.
It also said that Paris would not give its official position on the consequences of a possible yes-vote until 13 July which would give little time to incorporate the policy into the campaign.
The FLNKS also pointed out that with the September date, quarantine provisions could affect the deployment of the UN observers and the more than 200 French magistrates who were scheduled to be flown to help supervise the referendum.
Currently, anyone arriving in New Caledonia must be quarantined for three weeks.
The timing of the referendum was already discussed with the French prime minister Edouard Philippe via phone at the start of this week.
A leading anti-independence politician, Sonia Backes said she was firmly opposed to a delay when it was first raised with Mr Philippe.
Ms Backes, who is the president of the Southern Province, said the September date was set last year and she wanted it to be kept, accusing the rival side of posturing to pressure the French state.
The pro-independence side had wanted the vote to held as close as possible to the cut-off date of 4 November while the anti-independence camp wanted it brought forward to July.
In the previous referendum, in 2018, just under 57 percent voted for the status quo.
Should voters again reject independence this year, another referendum can be called by New Caledonia’s Congress within the following two years.