Nicolás Petit / AFP
NEW CALEDONIA – Emblematic place, the “great hut” of the Customary Senate of New Caledonia was the target of an arson that shocked the archipelago, less than two months before a second referendum on its independence.
“A 29-year-old man of Melanesian origin was arrested a few minutes after the fire started on Saturday night,” he announced this Sunday, August 9 in a press release. prosecutor Yves Dupas. The suspect, arrested at the direction of the security guard, was drunk and admitted “deliberately setting fire to the large hut with his lighter.”
When presenting himself as undersecretary of an association of squatters in the neighborhood, the alleged aggressor explained “having acted alone and on a whim, in reaction to the lack of support from the customary authorities of Kanak” to the complaints regarding the supply of energy and waste collection.
He will appear in criminal court on Tuesday, August 11, and faces a 10-year prison sentence, the prosecution said.
An “emblematic” place
Located in the Nouville district of Nouméa, the advisory institution it is home to sixteen Kanak senators, representing the eight customary areas of New Caledonia. Alongside the solid buildings, the Customary Senate had a large traditional house, reserved for ceremonies and for receiving visiting personalities.
High Commissioner Laurent Prévost expressed “his deep emotion at the destruction of this iconic place” and “strongly condemned this act that undermines the customary institution and beyond that of a New Caledonian institution.” He specified that the overseas minister, Sébastien Lecornu, had been “informed of this arson” and that he expressed “his emotion and his support for the president of the customary Senate, Hippolyte Sinewami.”
On the airwaves of Nouvelle-Calédonie 1er, the latter expressed “his deep dismay at this isolated act that touches a symbolic structure”.
The president of the southern province, Sonia Backés (right), expressed “her dismay” on her Facebook page and condemned this “criminal act.” Deputy Philippe Gomes (UDI) deplored the destruction “of the country’s gateway (…) a space for dialogue between the Kanaks but also for meetings with the different components of the Caledonian people.”
A second referendum in two months
This fire occurs after a tricolor canvas deployed on the facade of the South Province and the fare (Polynesian construction) of a swimming pool in Noumea was burned in recent weeks.
These incidents contribute to tense the political climate in New Caledonia, where a second referendum of self-determination will be held on October 4, as part of the decolonization process of the Noumea Agreement (1998).
After the murderous violence between the “caldoches” of European origin and the Kanak separatists, which culminated in the bloody hostage taking of the cave of Ouvéa (1988), New Caledonia is immersed in a process of negotiated and progressive decolonization. , unprecedented in the history of France.
According to the Noumea Agreement (1998), a first referendum was held on November 4, 2018 and saw the victory of the pro-French who gathered 56.7% of the votes.
See also in the HuffPost: In Ouvéa, New Caledonia, Emmanuel Macron plants a very symbolic tree