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The local administration in the New Caledonian township of Canala stayed shut on Monday to mark the first anniversary of the last referendum on independence from France.

A year ago, more than 96 percent voted against full sovereignty but the pro-independence parties had advised their supporters to abstain, which lowered turnout to 43 percent.

The boycott was in protest at France’s refusal to postpone the vote because of the impact of the pandemic on the indigenous Kanak people.

The town hall in Canala (population 4000) had a banner across its entrance, which declared “December 12 — a day of humiliation of the Kanak people”.

Canala has a history as a stronghold of Kanak independence activism and protest.

The main pro-independence parties will hold a congress in early 2023 to prepare for bilateral talks with the French government in the hope of getting Paris to agree to a timetable to attain independence.

The anti-independence parties want Paris to enact the referendum result and draw up a statute for a New Caledonia within the French Republic.

This article is republished under a community partnership agreement with RNZ. 

The township of Canala
The township of Canala . . . a stronghold of the Kanak struggle for independence. Image: Wikimedia
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