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Young people on the streets in New Caledonia are saying they will “never give up” pushing back against France’s hold on the Pacific territory, a Kanak journalist in Nouméa says.

Pro-independence Radio Djiido’s Andre Qaeze told RNZ Pacific young people had said that “Paris must respect us” and what had been decided by Jacques Lafleur and Jean-Marie Tjibaou, who were instrumental in putting an end to the tragic events of the 1980s and restoring civil peace in the French territory.

In 1988, Tjibaou signed the Matignon Accords with the anti-independence leader Lafleur, ending years of unrest and ushering in a peaceful decolonisation process.

Qaeze — speaking to RNZ Pacific today as the week-old crisis continued — said the political problem, the electoral roll, was the visible part of the iceberg, but the real problem was the economic part.

He said they had decided to discuss the constitutional amendments to the electoral roll but wanted to know what were the contents of the discussions.

They also wanted to know the future of managing the wealth, including the lucrative mining, and all the resources of New Caledonia.

“Because those young people on the road, plenty of them don’t have any training, they go out from school with no job. They see all the richness going out of the country and they say we cannot be a spectator,” he said.

‘Rich become richer, poor become poorer’
“The rich become richer and the poor become poorer, and they say no, we have to change this economic model of sharing.

“I think this is the main problem,” he added.

Qaeze said the old pro-independence generation used to say to the young generation: “You go and stop”.

“Then we are trying to negotiate for us but negotiate for ‘us’. The word ‘us’ means only the local government is responsible not everybody.

“And now, for 30 years the young generation have seen this kind of [political] game, and for them we cannot continue like this.”

He believed it was important for the local pro-independence leaders to take care of the content of the future statutes not only political statutes.

According to French High Commissioner Louis Le Franc, almost 240 rioters had been detained following the violent unrest as of Monday.

Qaeze said every year about 400 indigenous young people left school without any diploma or any career and these were the young people on the streets.

He added there was plenty of inequality, especially in Nouméa, that needed to change.

“Our people can do things, can propose also our Oceanian way of running and managing [New Caledonia].”

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

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