Dec. 12 (UPI) — Voters in the territory of New Caledonia, a collection of islands in the Pacific, overwhelmingly rejected a referendum to become independent from France on Sunday.
More than 96% of voters chose to remain with France though just 40% of voters hit the polls for the referendum, The Guardian reported. The results came after a large-scale voting boycott from those pursuing independence to support indigenous Kanaks communities.
The Socialist Kanak Liberation Front proposed the boycott after entire villages in Kanak and Pasifika communities had been forced to observe traditional rites of mourning after being disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the outlet.
Due to such rites, pro-independence groups said it was “simply impossible” to properly campaign to the indigenous communities and so-called for them to refrain from voting when their appeals to postpone the referendum were rejected by officials in Paris.
French security forces had flocked to the territory ahead of the referendum after the results of previous referendums had led to violence, according to The New York Times.
Daniel Goa, the head of a pro-independence political party, told the outlet that France is “disrespecting the relationship between the Kanak living and dead.”
“The decolonization process is going ahead without respecting the people who must be decolonized,” Goa said.
In New Caledonia’s Belep Islands, which have a population of just under 900 people who are all Kanak, not a single person hit voting booths, according to The Guardian. A delegation of Kanak leaders has traveled to New York to contest France’s decision not to postpone the referendum.
The islands’ total population is around 272,000.
“France is more beautiful because New Caledonia chose to stay,” Macron said.
The referendum vote came after the 1998 Nouméa Accord, an agreement signed with France to increase the influence of Kanak communities in the New Caledonia government.
The accord laid the groundwork for a referendum vote in 2018, in which only 43% of voters chose independence. The French government agreed to a second vote in 2019 — which was held in 2020 — and only 47 percent of voters chose independence at that time. The latest referendum was the third to be held per the Nouméa Accord.
In the Atlantic, Barbados officially became a republic last month after removing Queen Elizabeth II as head of state for the former British colony on the 55th anniversary of its independence.
The country announced its plans to become a parliamentary republic in September 2020 after gaining its independence in 1966. The decision marks the first time in almost 30 years that a nation has chosen to sever ties to the British crown after Mauritius did so in 1992.