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Man shot dead by police in riot-hit New Caledonia: media

A man walks past a burned vehicle at a separate roadblock in the Magenta Tour district in Noumea, French Pacific territory of New Caledonia, May 22, 2024. The Pacific territory of 270,000 people has been in turmoil since on May 13, when violence broke out on the French.  plans to impose new voting rules that would enfranchise tens of thousands of non-Indigenous residents.  The riots have left six dead, including two police officers, and hundreds injured.  (Photo by Theo Rouby / AFP)

A man walks past a burned vehicle at a separate roadblock in the Magenta Tour district in Noumea on May 22, 2024.
Photo: AFP / Theo Rouby

Police shot dead a man in riot-hit New Caledonia on Friday night, a day after President Emmanuel Macron visited the French-ruled Pacific island to try to calm tensions, local media said. , citing the local prosecutor’s office.

The police officer used his gun when he and a colleague were attacked by a group of about 15 people before shots were fired, broadcaster NC La 1ere quoted the prosecutor as saying. An investigation was ongoing.

The prosecutor’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The death of the 48-year-old man, which was also reported by other local media, brought the death toll to seven in 12 days of unrest sparked by a contested electoral reform and fueled by stark economic disparities between the indigenous Kanak population and the of European origin. background.

Macron, on a one-day visit on Thursday, pressed the pause button on the reform, which would allow thousands more French residents who have lived in New Caledonia for 10 years to vote, diluting the vote of the Kanaks, who represent 41 percent of the population. population.

He stopped short of following demands by independence seekers that he withdraw completely, but said he wanted to use the coming weeks to try to reach a general political agreement on the island’s future.

The French government has sent thousands of additional police forces in recent days to help restore calm. Hours earlier, authorities had said the situation was “relatively calm.”

Police removed around 100 roadblocks in New Caledonia on Friday.

The island territory is marked by deep economic disparities, according to census data. The poverty rate among the indigenous Kanaks, the largest community, is 32.5 percent, compared to 9 percent among non-Kanaks, according to the 2019 census.

France colonized New Caledonia in 1853 and made the colony an overseas territory in 1946, granting rights to the Kanaks.

Christian Tein of the Field Action Coordination Cell (CCAT), which organized the protests, said they would continue to push to withdraw electoral reform and, eventually, the territory’s independence.

“We continue to be mobilized, we maintain the resistance in our neighborhoods, in a structured and organized way,” he stated in comments posted on Facebook.

He added that independence supporters had often felt let down by the government in Paris and he hoped Macron would keep his promise not to force electoral reform.

Reuters

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