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

Radio Djiido’s Andre Qaeze told RNZ Pacific young people have said that “Paris must respect us” and what has been decided by Jacques Lafleur and Jean-Marie Tjibaou, who were instrumental in putting an end to the tragic events of the mid-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 on Monday as “heavy detonation continued city” – said the political problem is the visible part of the iceberg – the electoral roll – but the real problem inside is the economic part.

He said they have decided to discuss the constitutional amendments to the electoral roll but want to know what are the contents of the discussions.

They also want 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.

“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 they have seen this kind of game, and for them we cannot continue like this.”

He believes it is important for the local pro-independence leaders to take care of the contents of the future statutes not only political statutes.

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

Qaeze said every year about 400 indigenous young people go out of school without any diploma or any career and these are the young people on the road.

He added there is plenty of inequality, especially in Noumea, that needs to change.

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