Asia-Pacific

Key dates behind New Caledonia's vote

In 1853 France claimed control of New Caledonia which was occupied almost entirely by the indigenous Kanak communities.

The Pacific territory of New Caledonia is voting in an independence referendum on Sunday.

Here are some key dates that have led up to the vote, drawn mainly from researcher Christiane Terrier's summary of the territory's history for the Maison de la Nouvelle Caledonie in Paris.

1853: France claims control of New Caledonia, up to then occupied almost entirely by the indigenous Kanak communities.

1864: The first French convicts deported to penal colonies in the territory arrive.

1878: Major revolt led by the Kanak chief Atai.

1897-1903: Kanak lands massively reduced by the colonial authorities. Between 1853 and 1921, the Kanak population also significantly decreases due to disease and repression.

1917: Second major Kanak revolt.

1946: Kanaks are recognised as French citizens, while retaining some aspects of customary law.

1984: Radical Kanak activists form the Kanak and Socialist National Liberation Front (FLNKS). Four years of violence begin.

April-May 1988: Pro-independence militants kill four gendarmes on the island of Ouvea and take 27 more hostage. Negotiations fail and on May 5, French forces storm the cave where the hostages are held. 19 Kanaks and two gendarmes are killed.

June 26, 1988: At peace talks hosted by French prime minister Michel Rocard at his Matignon residence, FLNKS leader Jean-Marie Tjibaou and pro-French leader Jacques Lafleur sign a historic agreement calling for an independence vote within 10 years. The deal creates also three largely autonomous provinces, two with Kanak majorities.

May 4, 1989: Tjibaou and his deputy Yeweine Yeweine are shot dead by a hardline pro-independence militant as they attend a memorial ceremony on Ouvea.

May 5, 1998: Pro and anti-independence forces meeting in the capital Noumea agree to postpone the independence vote by up to 20 years. The Noumea Agreement provides for greater autonomy and recognizes the injustices suffered by the Kanaks under colonialism.

November 4, 2018: The independence vote takes place.

Stay up to date with SBS NEWS

  • App
  • Subscribe
  • Follow
  • Listen
  • Watch