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Thread: New Caledonia Referendum: The (French) Empire strikes back?

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    Abdülmecid I's Avatar ¡Ay Carmela!
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    Default New Caledonia Referendum: The (French) Empire strikes back?

    The independence referendum for New Caledonia showed a clear victory for the "loyalists", who wished for the archipelago to remain an overseas province of France. However, New Caledonian nationalists also celebrated, as their percentage was remarkably high (more than 40%). The turnout was not particularly small, although, given the fact that there was never any serious possibility for the "Yes" to win, I suspect that many "No" voters didn't bother to participate. The nationalist movement in Caledonia has a long and somewhat bloody history. In 1988, members of the Kanak and Socialist National Liberation Front (currently the strongest pro-independence party) murdered 4 policemen and took several hostages. The "Ouvéa cave'' crisis ended in a massacre, when the Gendarmerie attacked the terrorists with many casualties and presumably excecuted some of them in cold blood, in an operation as flawless as the sinking of the Rainbow Warrior. However, more recently, the struggle has become more pacifist and tensions have drastically decreased.



    In what concerns the background, it needs to be mentioned that the Kanak people, the original inhabitants of the islands are now a minority (approximately 40% of the total population), because of the early oppressive policies of the colonial and the arrival of European and Polynesian immigrants (Kanaks being Melanesian). Similarly to the military aspect of the conflict, the situation has improved dramatically, with New Caledonians enjoying equal rights, from representation to the legislative institutions to European Parliament elections. Moreover, New Caledonia is remarkably wealthy, many times more than its tiny neighbors, like Vanuatu, and, proportionately speaking, even more prosperous than New Zealand (so says, the notoriously well-informed Central Intelligence Agency), mainly thanks to its mineral wealth, its huge reserves of nickel. On the other hand, the reality is less rosy for the cohesion and quality of life of the society. The problem and, in my opinion, the primary reason behind the independence movement, lies in its terrible income inequality, a consequence of the total dependence of nickel exports. The subsequent unrest has targeted the French administration, as nationalists blame the metropolis for the financial difficulties.

    According to the data, this allegation is pure tribal propaganda. New Caledonia actually benefits immensely from France, as the local budget is based on the aid and contributions coming from Paris. This is why I insist that the result of the referendum, even not as doubtless as hoped, is an important defeat against nationalist populism, under the pretext of progressiveness. Hidden under a thin veil of social-democracy, what Kanak nationalists advocate for hardly anything more substantial than typical fear-mongering and slandering a convenient scapegoat. The New Caledonian community really suffers from several economic issues, but cheaply blaming the "other" is a lazy, simplistic and disorientating tactic, specifically designed to gather followers, instead of sincerely addressing the crux of the matter. What New Caledonia needs is a radical domestic reform of its social, economic and political structure and not a superficial independence that will not only alter the distribution of profit, but will also abruptly interrupt the fruitful relations between the archipelago and France. Even the Kanak nationalist narrative is derived from a brutal distortion of history and an overlooking of the present demographic composition, which may lead to ethnic tensions and the rise of chauvinism. For now, stability reigns in the French Overseas Departments, from Oceania to Guyana and Martinique, but, as long as economic stagnation and the worsening social conditions are not stopped, I will not be surprised, if the sun finally succeeds in setting in the French Empire.
    Last edited by Abdülmecid I; November 04, 2018 at 04:38 PM.

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    Default Re: New Caledonai Referendum: The (French) Empire strikes back?

    It's ridiculous that France still maintains an empire in the 21st century. It's not surprising that people there mostly want to stay part of France given most of their jobs probably depend on French industry on the island. Heaven forbid that France would keep its industries there if the country became independent, and the French would have to negotiate access to the mineral wealth of the island on terms decided by the islanders, rather than just walking in and taking it.

    What New Caledonia needs is a radical domestic reform of its social, economic and political structure
    Do you imagine that's likely to happen so long as it is ruled by a country on the other side of the world? What if the global demand for nickel falls? The island's economy will collapse. Independent countries forge their own path in the world and adapt to their surroundings. Imperial colonies have no real agency and they have little ability to shape their own destiny. While things are going well they might feel justified in accepting foreign rule, but they may come to regret that decision. There may come a day when the interests of France, a large European country in an increasingly integrated political union with its neighbours, no longer coincide with the interests of a small island off the coast of Australia populated by Polynesian and Melanesian tribes (shocking, I know).
    A new mobile phone tower went up in a town in the USA, and the local newspaper asked a number of people what they thought of it. Some said they noticed their cellphone reception was better. Some said they noticed the tower was affecting their health.

    A local administrator was asked to comment. He nodded sagely, and said simply: "Wow. And think about how much more pronounced these effects will be once the tower is actually operational."

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    Default Re: New Caledonai Referendum: The (French) Empire strikes back?

    Tbh, this would probably do almost nothing to stop the decades long decline of whats left of the French colonial empire and its sphere of influence. Even during the last 3 decades, long after decolonisation had happened, France has continued to receive foreign policy blunders after another in its former colonies whether well known or not. During the 1990s, it's influence in Burundi and Rwanda* declined rather severely with both countries succumbing to civil war and genocide. As of right now it's quite debatable they're still part of the French sphere of influence given that both countries have recently made English as one of their official languages with Rwanda repeatedly breaking diplomatic ties with the French government and joined the Commonwealth in 2009.


    During this decade Islamist rebels were able to take over a large portion of Northern Mali from their former Tuareg allies in 2013, threatening the Malian government before a French led intervention allowed the government to retake most of the areas previously lost and the Seleka rebel coalition had managed to overthrow the CAR government in the same year. Even countries that have thousands of French soldiers garrisoned in it are not immune from civil wars such as what happened in Djibouti in 1991.


    *While Burundi and Rwanda were former German and later Belgian colonies, any political influence Belgium had in both countries completely evaporated when both countries had gained independence in 1962, with France filling in the power vacuum given that both countries had French as an official language.

    Quote Originally Posted by Copperknickers II View Post
    Do you imagine that's likely to happen so long as it is ruled by a country on the other side of the world? What if the global demand for nickel falls? The island's economy will collapse. Independent countries forge their own path in the world and adapt to their surroundings. Imperial colonies have no real agency and they have little ability to shape their own destiny. While things are going well they might feel justified in accepting foreign rule, but they may come to regret that decision. There may come a day when the interests of France, a large European country in an increasingly integrated political union with its neighbours, no longer coincide with the interests of a small island off the coast of Australia populated by Polynesian and Melanesian tribes (shocking, I know).
    It could very well happen, Nauru a Micronesian country in the Pacific once had a very high gdp per capita as a result of its once plentiful phosphate deposits which allowed easy strip mining operations. However once most of its reserves were exhausted a few decades ago, Nauru's economy collapsed. Today the country gets most of its income from coconut processing, offshore banking. what ever is left of its phosphate mining industry and the presence of the Nauru regional processing centre an an offshore Australian immigration detention facility and its nautral enviroment has been damaged heavily by the strip mining of the Phosphate. It even had an unemployment of around 90% in 2004 although it has considerably lessened since then.
    Last edited by RandomPerson2000; November 04, 2018 at 02:48 PM.

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    Abdülmecid I's Avatar ¡Ay Carmela!
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    Default Re: New Caledonia Referendum: The (French) Empire strikes back?

    Quote Originally Posted by Copperknickers II View Post
    It's ridiculous that France still maintains an empire in the 21st century. It's not surprising that people there mostly want to stay part of France given most of their jobs probably depend on French industry on the island. Heaven forbid that France would keep its industries there if the country became independent, and the French would have to negotiate access to the mineral wealth of the island on terms decided by the islanders, rather than just walking in and taking it.
    Are you suggesting that France should apologize for not being a fascist state and instead ignore popular will for the sake of dismantling her overseas territories? The allegation that the locals are indirectly blackmailed by the prospect of industries abandoning the island is absurd. No such threat has been expressed, as far as I know, so the real answer is simpler. There is simply no incentive to declare independence, given that all French citizens enjoy equal rights, while the appeal to a previous, glorified and ethnically homogeneous past cannot be supported by history.
    Quote Originally Posted by Copperknickers II View Post
    Do you imagine that's likely to happen so long as it is ruled by a country on the other side of the world? What if the global demand for nickel falls? The island's economy will collapse. Independent countries forge their own path in the world and adapt to their surroundings. Imperial colonies have no real agency and they have little ability to shape their own destiny. While things are going well they might feel justified in accepting foreign rule, but they may come to regret that decision. There may come a day when the interests of France, a large European country in an increasingly integrated political union with its neighbours, no longer coincide with the interests of a small island off the coast of Australia populated by Polynesian and Melanesian tribes (shocking, I know).
    I don't want to sound harsh, but your emotionally charged vocabulary is factually incorrect and directly contradicted by the data included in the opening post. It has stopped being foreign rule for several decades. New Caledonia is not a colony nor are French foreigners. Every New Caledonian is a French citizen, with full rights and perfectly allowed to participate in the elections and send his representatives to both the legislative institutions (Senate and National Assembly). Funnily, in what concerns the former, New Caledonia is grossly over-represented (2 Senators for a total of 348, despite its population being considerably smaller than 0,5% of the total French people), so someone could argue that gerrymandering favours the "colonies'. In addition to that, New Caledonia also enjoys a greater autonomy than any European department of France (even without excluding Alsace and its special Concordat), because, apart from the omnipresent municipal administration, New Caledonians have also the right to handle their domestic judiciary cases, according to their native customs, as long as they do not unacceptably interfere with the country's law.

    Taking into account the regular financial aid provided by France and the remarkably high level of autonomy, it becomes obvious why the result of the referendum was negative, despite the opposition's populist, reactionary and mildly racist rhetoric of blaming the "other" for income inequality. After all, let's not forget that it is practically impossible to invent a Kanak nation out of the thin air, given that the archipelago was very diverse, culturally and linguistically, before the arrival of the French Imperial authorities. The chances of a revolutionary reform are quite slim, I'm definitely not denying that, but they are even more improbable, under a kleptocratic regime of professionally opportunistic adventurers, who could not even finance their initiatives, even if they sincerely desired to restructure it.

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    Default Re: New Caledonia Referendum: The (French) Empire strikes back?

    We could turn the question around and ask how much does France actually profit from holding on to New Caledonia? Might it actually be a financial burden to the Republic, strategic value and resources notwithstanding?

    That said, I'm going to introduce another point that the OP seems to have missed (even though it would support his argument), and that is the vulnerability of small, inconsequential (but freshly independent) countries to new, bigger/more oppressive colonizers. Given New Caledonia's resources as well as its strategic position next to Australia and NZ, I think that independence would be a foolish move. Same reason why it would be dangerous for Greenland to push for complete independence from Denmark.

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    Default Re: New Caledonia Referendum: The (French) Empire strikes back?

    As I said in the opening post, New Caledonia receives more than it takes from metropolitan France. The argument of the Kanak nationalists is that France exploits New Caledonia, so an independent future will prove to be quite prosperous. That accusation might have been true in the past (New Caledonia still suffers from widespread income inequality), but not so much anymore. Financial aid from France and easy access to the European market are probably the main pillar's of the archipelago's fragile economy. Not to mention the fact that, in the hypothetical scenario of independence, the new administration will probably not survive the massive exodus of all those that will abandon the islands, in order to keep their French nationality and privileges. They consist of the wealthiest and best educated segments of the society, so the hit will be particularly serious.

    So, it's good news that the nationalists were defeated for a second time today. Unfortunately, their percentages increased, but they have still not managed to get the absolute majority they need for secession. At least one more referendum will follow (sounds stupid and rigged in favour of the separatists, but that procedure has been decided in the 1998 Nouméa Accords.

    Regarding foreign policy, there's no threat of annexation. A bankrupt New Caledonia would be an attractive target for American, Chinese and Australian loan-makers, which could indirectly render New Caledonia dependent on their good-will, but that's about it. The archipelago doesn't have any important value as a resource exporter, its nickel mines have been already declining. Its maritime zone could play a potentially significant role, but it's quite away from the main source of conflict in the western Pacific Ocean. You can check Caspian Report, if you are interested in the subject:

    Last edited by Abdülmecid I; October 08, 2020 at 05:00 AM. Reason: Video fixed.

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    Default Re: New Caledonia Referendum: The (French) Empire strikes back?

    Ah, the mainstream TW community never fails. People making excuses and actually supporting colonialism. With a dose of genocide. France should have no business lording over nations on the other side of the globe.
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    Default Re: New Caledonia Referendum: The (French) Empire strikes back?

    Overseas departments are not a synonym for colonialism, though. New Caledonia participates in the elections for the President and the National Assembly and even has its own, legislative body, the Congress of New Caledonia. There can be no case of colonialism, if the population enjoys the same (or even more, if we take into account the increased autonomy) civic rights as the inhabitants of metropolitan France. It is also not being exploited economically, as the state funds directed towards the archipelago surpass the revenue collected from taxes. In any case, ignoring the result of the referendum for the sake of nationalism would be undemocratic, authoritarian and ultimately fascist. I personally disagree with the reactionarism of Kanak supremacism, but if independence is what the majority of New Caledonians wish for, then I couldn't object. But that's not the case either in the 2018 or in the 2020 referendum.

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    Default Re: New Caledonia Referendum: The (French) Empire strikes back?

    Third referendum is over and loyalism prevailed yet again. That was the last referendum according to the Nouméa accord. In fact, the separatists were annihilated, but that was mostly the result of the most prominent nationalist parties boycotting the elections. Their official justification was concern for the pandemic, which has gravely hit the indigenous communities, but it looks like an attempt at delegitimising the procedure, whose conclusion was obviously contrary to their interests, by abstaining from it. It's a common tactic, but I don't think it will convince many besides their most extreme supporters. On the positive side, the refusal of the Kanak nationalists to participate led to fewer incidents of intimidation and violence against the loyalist community. In any case, the roadmap to independence as determined by the Nouméa accords, whose stipulations were very beneficial to the nationalist and xenophobe faction, is officially over, but, since the dominant and slightly racist FLNKS party has refused to acknowledge them, little will change in practice, unfortunately.

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    Default Re: New Caledonia Referendum: The (French) Empire strikes back?

    Quote Originally Posted by Gromovnik View Post
    Ah, the mainstream TW community never fails. People making excuses and actually supporting colonialism. With a dose of genocide. France should have no business lording over nations on the other side of the globe.
    As an aside, De-colonisation in the South Pacific has had an odd pathway. As this episode in New Caledonia illustrates, it isn't as simple as "Colonial power decides colonialism is bad and leaves"

    The UN's list of non-self-governing territories lists Guam, American Samoa, Tokelau and New Caledonia in this region as 'awaiting decolonisation' But given the choice, most of those territories have chosen not to be independent. And it's not for lack of trying - New Zealand has tried to drop Tokelau through a vote twice in the last 20 years - both times failing. American Samoa's independence movement hasn't even gotten off the ground, despite strong family connections to it's independent western half. Guam doesn't really have an independence movement as such, and discussions about that have petered out over the years through inertia.

    It's easy enough for us to sit here and say 'colonies are bad' but what to do when the colony prospers because of it's status within the parent country and might face poverty otherwise? The South Pacific isn't exactly renowned for anything other than tourism - largely from the parent countries...
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    Default Re: New Caledonia Referendum: The (French) Empire strikes back?

    To put things into perspective, the main island of New Caledonia, Grande Terre, is 80% larger than the entirety of the island of Cyprus.
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    Default Re: New Caledonia Referendum: The (French) Empire strikes back?

    Quote Originally Posted by PointOfViewGun View Post
    To put things into perspective, the main island of New Caledonia, Grande Terre, is 80% larger than the entirety of the island of Cyprus.
    Not for long though.

    The Poly-and Micronesian islands are extremely exposed to sea level rises, and there's some fairly dire strategic prep being done to move entire nations to safer ground (I think Australia and NZ are the preferred locations).

    Its not being widely bruited but its part of a raft of bureaucratic groundwork being done by a bunch of agencies to prepare for our (so far) failed response to climate change. Geez I hope the short term profits are worth it for the non-tax paying class, because us tax payers are facing a massive bill.

    I think this looming reality is part of the colonised islands' unwillingness to be de-colonised.

    There's also New Guinea's experience of decades of paternal exploitation followed by a rapid well intentioned but under-resourced withdrawal. The expat community's opinion seems to be we dragged our feet too long then rushed it at the end, so there's been more corruption and violence than there needed to be (eg Bougainville).
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