France Imposes State Of Emergency At Its Overseas Territory, And Bans TikTok

22/05/2024

Protests and riots erupted in New Caledonia, a French overseas territory in the Pacific Ocean.

The unrest was triggered by a controversial voting reform aiming to change existing restrictions. The bill extends voting rights in provincial elections to residents arriving from mainland France, a change critics fear could marginalize indigenous people and benefit pro-France politicians.

These restrictions prevented up to one-fifth of the population from voting in provincial elections.

Many people have lost their lives, and many more are injured.

Because of this, France imposes state of emergency in New Caledonia.

New Caledonia riot
New Caledonia riot
New Caledonia riot

The 12-day state of emergency was announced hours after a French gendarme who was seriously injured during riots in New Caledonia died of his wounds, said Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin.

The death of the French gendarme was followed by restless nights of rioting as protesters demonstrated against a constitutional reform being debated in the national assembly in Paris that aims to expand the electorate in the territory's provincial elections.

Vehicles torched, shops looted.

The last time France imposed such measures on one of its overseas territories was in 1985, which was also in New Caledonia, Darmanin said.

"No violence will be tolerated," said Prime Minister Gabriel Attal, adding that the state of emergency "will allow us to roll out massive means to restore order."

Additional powers under the state of emergency include the possibility of house detention for people deemed a threat to public order and the ability to conduct searches, seize weapons and restrict movements, with possible jail time for violators.

With tensions surrounding colonial history, economic inequality, and discrimination against native Kanaks, French President Emmanuel Macron cancelled a planned visit to Normandy, and flown to New Caledonia to chair cabinet-level national security talks.

In the riot-hit New Caledonia, where France deployed a heavy security contingent, imposed a curfew, banned public gatherings and deployed troops to its ports and international airport, the government representative in New Caledonia has also "banned TikTok"

The popular social media platform is banned, three nights after the clashes left four dead and hundreds wounded.

New Caledonia riot
New Caledonia riot
New Caledonia riot
New Caledonia riot

In all, the measures should give the authorities greater powers to tackle the unrest.

But it's worth noting that TikTok is already banned in the French overseas territory of New Caledonia amid the riots, and on the work phones of civil servants, but the app is not prohibited generally.

At the time, the Minister of Transformation and Public Service, Stanislas Guerini, said this was due to cybersecurity concerns, and the ban does not apply to their personal devices or to the wider general public.

Following the state emergency, TikTok representative said that the platform is only banned in New Caledonia, and that it's still operating in mainland France, Corsica and other of France's overseas territories.

"It is regrettable that an administrative decision to suspend TikTok's service has been taken on the territory of New Caledonia, without any questions or requests to remove content from the New Caledonian authorities or the French government," the representative said,

New Caledonia riot
France's President Emmanuel Macron boards his Presidential plane to travel to the Pacific archipelago of New Caledonia in an attempt to resolve a political crisis, at the Orly airport, a suburb of Paris on May 21, 2024.

New Caledonia resides between Australia and Fiji, and considered one of several French territories spanning the globe from the Caribbean and Indian Ocean to the Pacific that remain part of France in the post-colonial era.

In the Noumea Accord of 1998, France vowed to gradually give more political power to the Pacific island territory of nearly 300,000 people. The problem here is that, the Noumea Accord has New Caledonia's voter lists that have not been updated since 1998, meaning that island residents who arrived from mainland France or elsewhere in the past 25 years do not have the right to take part in provincial polls.

The French government is changing this, by proposing changes in voting laws that would allow long-term non-Indigenous residents to vote in provincial elections.

But others, mainly separatists, fear that expanding voter lists would benefit pro-France politicians and reduce the weight of the Kanaks.

The voting laws are seen by the Kanaks as a threat to their push for independence, as they believe it would dilute their electoral power and hinder their long-standing goal of self-determination.

This has sparked mass protests and violent clashes between Indigenous Kanak people and French security forces.

La Tontouta International Airport, also known as Nouméa, or the La Tontouta International Airport, is the main international airport in New Caledonia.

It's not only a place for commercial airliners, because it's also act as a military base for the French Air Force based in New Caledonia. With this international airport closed, the state emergency is stranding thousands of tourists.

Australia and New Zealand were the first to send their own C-130 Hercules to pick up their nationals stranded New Caledonia.

The violence has not only resulted in fatalities but also significant disruption to daily life in New Caledonia.

French President Emmanuel Macron has called for calm and dialogue, but tensions remain highas the Kanak community continues to demand greater autonomy and eventual independence from French rule​.