In response to the petition presented to the deputy French Ambassador during a solidarity march led by the Vanuatu President of the Malvatumauri Council of Chiefs (MCC), Chief Paul Robert Ravun, French Ambassador Jean-Baptiste Jeangène Vilmer has issued a comprehensive Opinion-Editorial addressing key concerns regarding New Caledonia’s indigenous recognition, decolonisation process, discrimination, military operations, and calls for independence.

Ambassador Vilmer reaffirmed France’s commitment to recognising the Kanaky people as Indigenous, emphasising their unique identity and cultural heritage, “the French government formally acknowledges the Kanaky people as Indigenous, recognising their unique identity and cultural heritage”.

Highlighting the Nouméa Accord, Vilmer noted its acknowledgment of the dual legitimacy of both the Kanak people and other communities that have contributed to New Caledonia’s development, initiatives such as the inclusion of Kanak languages in the education system and the establishment of the Tjibaou Cultural Centre underscore France’s support for promoting and defending Kanak culture.

Vilmer stressed France’s denouncement of all forms of discrimination, emphasising ongoing efforts to promote peace, justice, democracy, and respect for human rights, “the French government denounces all forms of discrimination and is committed to promoting peace, justice, democracy, and respect for human rights”.

Measures aimed at improving access to employment, education, and public services for the Kanak population have been implemented, although Vilmer acknowledged that challenges remain and more work is needed to reduce inequalities and foster harmonious relations among all communities in New Caledonia.

Regarding the decolonisation process, Vilmer highlighted France’s support for New Caledonia’s path towards self-determination, which began in 1988, “the process of decolonisation in New Caledonia has been ongoing since 1988, with the French government supporting a path towards self-determination”.

The Nouméa Accord of 1998, providing for substantial autonomy and the gradual transfer of powers to local authorities, has been praised by the United Nations Decolonisation Committee, despite three referendums in which a majority chose to remain part of France, Vilmer underscored France’s commitment to ongoing dialogue and cooperation with regional partners to build a shared future.

Vilmer addressed concerns about military operations, clarifying that none are currently underway in New Caledonia, “there are no military operations currently taking place in New Caledonia”.

Law enforcement activities are conducted by police and gendarmerie to maintain public order and protect residents and infrastructure, adhering to the principle of proportionate use of force, the French government remains committed to ensuring safety and security while addressing unrest through dialogue and peaceful means.

On the issue of independent international investigations, Vilmer asserted there is no necessity for such measures as law enforcement actions are supervised by independent courts following due legal process, “there is no need for independent international investigations”.

Reinforcements deployed by the French state were deemed necessary to prevent further violence and socioeconomic damage. Vilmer emphasised the government’s transparency and openness to dialogue concerning law enforcement operations.

In response to calls for Kanaky independence, Vilmer highlighted France’s engagement with regional partners and the structured process of self-determination provided by the Nouméa Accord, “the French government continues to engage with regional partners to support dialogue and cooperation”.

The Accord has facilitated multiple opportunities for the Kanak people and all New Caledonians to express their will.

Ambassador Vilmer reiterated France’s dedication to advancing an inclusive and peaceful future for New Caledonia through continued dialogue and partnership with regional partners.

“Our priority is now to resume dialogue as the political path remains to be invented to continue building this “common destiny” in a more inclusive and peaceful way. France will continue to work in the coming months with regional partners including Vanuatu, the Melanesian Spearhead Group, and the Pacific Islands Forum, in order to achieve this dialogue essential to the future of New Caledonia,” he said.