More than 600 gendarmes mobilized on the road to Nouméa airport and “several hundred” additional members of the police expected in the archipelago: the State is deploying major resources, Sunday May 19, to try to restore order in New Caledonia.

Despite a night deemed “calmer” by the High Commission of the Republic in New Caledonia, the violence has not completely stopped and blockades continue on the archipelago, four days after the vote, in Paris, by the National Assembly, of a constitutional reform project which set the territory ablaze.

The reform aims to expand the electorate during provincial elections, but separatists fear that this will marginalize “even more the indigenous Kanak people”. Adopted by deputies and senators, the text must still be voted on by parliamentarians meeting in Congress, unless New Caledonian elected officials reach an agreement.

Saturday afternoon, the toll rose with the death of a sixth person, a Caldoche (a Caledonian of European origin), in Kaala-Gomen, in the North province. The other five dead are two gendarmes and three Kanak civilians, in the Nouméa metropolitan area.

The Minister of the Interior, Gérald Darmanin, announced the start on Sunday morning of a “major operation with more than 600 gendarmes, including around a hundred from the GIGN”, the intervention unit of the national gendarmerie, in order to “resume “total control” of the road, around sixty kilometers long, which connects Nouméa to La Tontouta international airport.

Flights to and from New Caledonia have been suspended since Tuesday. On Saturday, the government of the archipelago announced that 3,200 people were therefore stranded, either because they could not leave the archipelago or because they could not join it.

A “quieter” night

Resuming control of the airport road therefore appears to be a priority for the executive, especially since New Zealand announced on Sunday that it had asked France to be able to land planes, in order to repatriate its nationals. . “We are ready to take off, and are awaiting authorization from the French authorities to know when these flights can take place safely,” New Zealand Foreign Minister Winston Peters said in a statement.

“The State is mobilizing to ensure the protection of the population and reestablish republican order,” assured Sunday morning the High Commission of the Republic in New Caledonia, announcing the imminent arrival of “several hundred forces internal security, logistical and operational support and civil security”, in addition to the reinforcements already sent. He also reported a “calmer” night.

Despite this, during the night from Saturday to Sunday, the media library in the Rivière-Salée district of Nouméa was set on fire, according to the public television channel Nouvelle-Calédonie La 1ère. Questioned by Agence France-Presse, the town hall responded on Sunday morning that it had “no way at the moment to verify it, as the neighborhood is inaccessible”.

“The reality is that there are (…) lawless zones (…) which are held by armed bands, pro-independence bands, the CCAT [the cell for coordinating field actions]. And in these places, they destroy everything,” said the vice-president of the South province, Philippe Blaise, on Saturday on BFM-TV. The CCAT is a radical independence organization accused of inciting the greatest violence.

Schools remain closed in the Southern province

The mayor (Renaissance) of Nouméa, Sonia Lagarde, estimated on Saturday on BFM-TV that the situation was “far from a return to appeasement”. “Can we say that we are in a city under siege? Yes, I think we can say that,” she added.

The High Commission announced that the exceptional measures of the state of emergency are maintained – namely the curfew between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m., the ban on gatherings, the transport of weapons and the sale of alcohol, and the banning of the TikTok application.

For the population, traveling, buying basic necessities and seeking healthcare becomes more difficult every day. Fewer and fewer businesses are able to open, and the numerous obstacles to traffic complicate the logistics of supplying them, especially in the most disadvantaged neighborhoods.

On Sunday morning, the Southern province, which accounts for nearly two-thirds of the archipelago’s population, announced that all schools would remain closed next week. “This time should make it possible to finish securing educational establishments, their access and to make an inventory of the damage in order to find as quickly as possible the conditions for a resumption of teaching, the following week, where this will be possible,” the province explained.