Paris, April 11th, 2023
FRONT DE LIBERATION NATIONALE KANAK ET SOCIALISTE
FLNKS delegation speech in front of the French Prime Minister – Elisabeth BORNE.
Paris, April 11th, 2023
Minister of the Interior,
Minister of the Overseas,
Ladies and gentlemen,
First of all, allow me, Mrs Prime Minister, to greet you on behalf of the FLNKS
delegation for this first meeting with you. In light of the difficult situation prevailing in
France, you were able to take some time in your busy schedule to talk with our
delegation and we recognize your significant consideration of the Caledonian case. We
have had the opportunity to communicate by phone with some delegation members.
Today is the first time that we meet, and it is good to be able to dialogue face-to-face
and try to understand each other.
A heavy and weighty case has been passed on to you, that of an ancient
civilization characterized as “the Kanak people of Melanesian and Austronesian
descent” which has been present in the Caledonian archipelago for more than 3000
years. Close to 250 years ago (1774), this ancient people crossed the path of
Europeans through James Cook, and then that of the French on September 24, 1853,
the date of the possession of the islands by France. It is from this time onward that
the chaotic history of relations between France and us, the Kanak people, began.
Almost 170 years later, we are still debating these relations that bind us: You as the
representative of France, and us, the members of the FLNKS delegation, led by two of
the signatories of the Nouméa Agreement, Victor TUTUGORO and myself, accompanied
by Gilbert Tyuienon, Mickaël Forrest, Jean Pierre Djaïwé,Adolf Digoue, Aloisio Sako,
Jean Creugnet and our technical team.
As you know, Mrs Prime Minister, the FLNKS represents the national liberation
movement of the colonized Kanak people, since the re-inscription in 1986 of New
Caledonia on the United Nations’ list of countries to decolonize. Therefore, we stand
in front of you as the representative of the governing authority of France, according
to international law.
On February 26, 2023, the popular congress of the FLNKS and the nationalist
and Indigenous movement has validated the unique and unitary trajectory for the
country’s achievement of full sovereignty and independence, through negotiation with
the governing authority, France, which is the governing power since the possession of
New Caledonia on September 24, 1853.
For 170 years (September 24, 1853) we have lived under the governance of
France, which has become since 1986 the administering power of the New Caledonia,
the latter being considered a non-self-governing territory. This governance has never
been accepted by our people and the genealogy of the struggle to free ourselves of it
is well known, allow me to share some dates:
• From 1774 (arrival of James Cook) to 1853 (formal possession): people
had to struggle against the harmful effects of microbial epidemics introduced by the
first Europeans, faced with a population which lacked immunity. As a result, close to
90% of the population was eradicated. Survivors organized themselves and survived
thanks to their ancestral resilience when faced to diseases and European invasions.
Then, colonization followed.
• From 1853 to 1924: the violent possession of land, the settlement of
convicts and deportees, the revolts of chiefdoms and the bloody repression of the
colonial army with its massacres, ethnocide, population displacement and
• From 1925 to 1946: the population reaches its lowest point, approximately
25.00 people, it is the point of departure for a rebirth, through reconstruction,
the restructuration of chiefdoms with catholic and protestant missions.
• From 1945 to 1946: New Caledonia misses its first opportunity to achieve
independence. Indeed, the President of the United States of America, Roosevelt, was
of the idea that the French defeat would de facto lead to the end of its empire, then in
ruin. He was therefore planning on changing the status of Dakar, Indochina and other
French possessions and was advising France to progressively give up its possessions
in Asia and Africa. When it comes to New Caledonia, this colony was to be removed
from France and placed under the governance of the USA, similarly to Palau, before
giving it its independence back. That is what the work of Marie Claude Smouts,
researcher at the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS), shows in her
book “La France à l’ONU”.
• From 1946 to 1958: it is the end of the Native Code, the Kanak people are
granted citizenship and enter institutions. It also marks New Caledonia’s second missed
opportunity to become independent since in the 1958 constitutional referendum, the
electoral roll was predominantly Kanak. Under the influence of the Catholic and
Protestant churches supported by the European section of the Union Calédonienne
party, this party opted for the YES, and therefore to remain within the French Republic.
The framework law or autonomy law was in turn put in place.
• 1963-1968 and 1975-1984: abolition of the framework law and birth of the
Kanak pro-independence movement. 1975 was the year of the “Mélanésia 2000”
cultural revolution, and the creation of the Front Indépendantiste in 1979.
• 1984 – 1988: it was the semi-failure of the Nainville-les-Roches discussions,
the creation of the FLNKS, and the Kanak nationalist insurrection and revolts which will
last four long years.
• 1988 – 1989: was the year of the signing of the Matignon Agreement and one
year after the murder of Jean-Marie Tjibaou and Yeiwene Yeiwene since they did not
have the FLNKS mandate to sign this agreement. An agreement which aimed to restore
peace and initiate the rebalancing, but not to settle the issue of independence.
• 1988-1998-2018: the country enters a process of emancipation and
decolonization with the Matignon and Nouméa agreements by having “rebalancing”
and “the impartiality of the state” as guiding principles.
• 2018-2022: this was the series of three referenda which resulted, according
to France, in three NOs to full-sovereignty and independence. A progression of the YES
to full-sovereignty and independence between the first and second consultations is however
notable. The third one is not recognized as politically legitimate by the FLNKS and its
regional and international support due to 60% of non-participation, which includes the
almost entirety of the Kanak people. This explains the procedure at the International
Court of Justice at The Hague. It is possible to estimate that the participation of the
Kanak population to a third referendum organized in normal and transparent
conditions, with an impartiality of the State would have allowed the country’s
achievement of independence. However, it marked the third missed opportunity to
reach independence in our chaotic history of relations with France.
This brief historical reminder traces a trajectory that began with the arrival of
the Europeans in Oceania in 1774 and which will continue until the achievement of full
sovereignty in the coming years as part of a renewed relation with France and Europe
for a country that will be fully integrated in its geographical area. This has been its
history for 3000 years, and this will be its future.
Indeed, experience has demonstrated that in the history of decolonization in
the Maghreb region, in Asia, in sub-Saharan Africa and other parts of the world: the
colonized never give up on the question of their asserted identity. It is the
same for our people which has always fought against an oppressive and forced
assimilatory system. While it fought against a system, the Kanak people respect France
and its inhabitants. France has a history that we respect: it is a great nation which
defends universal values. Moreover, hundreds of our youth have given their life during
the two world conflicts. France has brought us catholic and protestant religion as well
as education. That is was the preamble of the Nouméa Agreement acknowledges.
Due to being unheard in its struggle against a colonial system, we can consider
that the nationalist movement which started in the early 1970s was a response to the
abolition of the framework law put in place by the 1958 constitution, then removed in
1963. The movement peaked in 1984-1988, with the painful events of Ouvéa, where
the special troops of the French armed forces intervened to maintain the public order.
The number of Kanak leaders having lost their life during this period up until 1989 is
significant, especially considering their quality and our small population.
In light of this dead-end situation, the handshake between Jean-Marie Tjibaou,
Jacques Lafleur, and Michel Rocard, as planned, allowed for peace to be restored.
And the rebalancing included in the Matignon Agreement approved by the
national referendum of 1988.
This ten-year period between 1988 and 1998 was meant to be an opportunity
for a more balanced development of the territory. The no. 1 text of the Matignon
Agreement is entitled “The condition for a lasting peace – The impartial State at the
service of all.” The press release of June 26, 1988 also insists on this point: “The
impartiality of the State must be guaranteed, the security and protection of all must be
ensured”. And on August 20, the Minister of Overseas Departments and Territories,
Louis Le Pensec, declared before the agreement signing ceremony:
“France can only be a referee if its spoken word inspires trust”.
In 1998, the Matignon Agreement gave way to a new agreement, the Nouméa
Agreement, which won the support of the Kanak people but was rejected by the non-
independence majority of the South Province. This agreement has received an almost
unanimous approval from the Kanak people for several reasons:
– It maintained peace and allowed for the continuation of rebalancing policies;
– It allowed the construction of a project of society that would take colonialism
into account, following the Nainville-les-Roches Agreement in 1983;
– Its preamble and guidance document de facto recognized Kanak identity and
committed to the establishment of a new governance of New Caledonia, in the form
of a sui generis collectivity with autonomy, in a perspective of independence.
New Caledonia, which vocation for independence was recognized following the
1988 national referendum, was taking the path of the construction of a common
destiny resting on a “Caledonian citizenship” and the irreversibility of the process of
decolonization and emancipation.
Thus, for the colonized Kanak people, the responsibility of the State as the third
partner of the Nouméa Agreement is to guarantee this irreversible and sincere process,
allowing New Caledonia to endorse its vocation to be a sovereign state, like the other
sovereign states in the region. That is the meaning of the massive YES which was
given by the Kanak people at the referendum to ratify this agreement on November 8,
It was the same for the national referendum of November 6, 1988. Under no
condition can these two referenda be considered a reason for yet another status of
integration of New Caledonia within France.
For the Kanak people, the process of self-determination must continue to follow
up on the two referenda of 2018 and 2020. The Nouméa Agreement, which remains
the basis on which the future of New Caledonia must be permanently built and sealed,
is clear and unambiguous both in the preamble and the guidance document:
Decolonization is the way to rebuild a sustainable social bond between the
communities that live in New Caledonia.
A new step must be taken to mark the full acknowledgement of Kanak identity,
conditional to the refoundation of the social contract between all the communities that
live in New Caledonia and through the sharing of sovereignty with France before the
full sovereignty of the country to be.
The culmination point of this Agreement is completely unambiguous because:
“the State recognizes the vocation of New Caledonia to benefit from a complete
emancipation at the end of this period.” This Agreement will then remain at its last
development stage without the possibility of going back in the event that the
consultations do not lead to the new political organization suggested. This irreversibility
being a constitutional guarantee.
However, based on the decisions concerning the third referendum specifically,
and the statements made by French government officials, the Kanak people observes
that once again the French State never follows through with its promises, and that in
the last moment, it systematically aligns its interest as a “great power” to the French
population it has settled in New Caledonia.
It was the case in 1963, when the French government unilaterally decided to
cancel the framework law which had granted a wide autonomy status to New
Caledonia, thus reflecting General De Gaulle’s desire to rely on New Caledonia and
French Polynesia for France’s ambitions as a great world power. It also reflected the
wishes of the Caledonian colonial Right. This rupture unilaterally decided by Paris,
created the conditions for the birth of Kanak nationalism from the 1970s, followed by
its radicalization in 1984-1988.
Today, almost forty years after 1984, it would seem that we are
witnessing the same scenario, especially since the use of the concept of
Indo-Pacific, with a renewed alliance between the President of the Republic
and the Caledonian loyalists. Clearly, since 2021 and the Minister LECORNU,
the organization of the third referendum has been the scene of the tipping
of the State’s position towards the “No to independence” camp, undermining
the very principles of the Matignon and Nouméa Agreements, the impartial
State at the service of all, which resulted in a deadly loss of trust.
Since the possession of the islands by France, everything is done or organized
based on French, European or Western norms, usages, traditions, or social structures,
with an almost blind application of them in the context of a traditional society that is
fundamentally different. Thus, basic organizations, structures, concepts, or processes,
which are not that of Oceanian societies, continue to be imposed, without question as
to the degree of constraint or acceptation that it implies. However, this society, like
any Oceanian society, carries deep values, drawing on the spiritual world, nourished
by the sacred and inhabited by a way of thinking in harmony with nature and the
cosmos as it has been valued, anchored mythological corpus on par with the great
Mediterranean civilizations. We have not invented all this, it has been made explicit
and rehabilitated by academia and anthropological research.
For a long time, the representatives of the Kanak people, whether it
be the great chiefs, political leaders, or religious leaders have asked the
question “but why does France, the governing power, not hear us?” It
remains deaf to our points, to what the Kanak people wants, because it is
its right to recover its lost sovereignty. But France does not think so and
does not respect the recommendations made by the United Nations. It does
exactly the opposite or interprets what is presented to it within the
framework of the defense of superior national interests.
Could France, for once, carry a process of decolonization through? This
unfinished process of decolonization smashed into the third referendum,
which the FLNKS considers a “stolen” referendum.
Has France forgotten the history of the colonization of this people and
of its millennial civilization?
The Melanesian civilization is not an invention of the mind, it was demonstrated,
scientifically confirmed by the community of researchers in the field of anthropology.
Indeed, within the context of anthropology and approaching “deep thought”, academic
research led on the path of understanding the spirit of man and his relationship with
the material and spiritual world around him. The aforementioned work provides for the
first time an exploration and in-depth reading of the mythical thought of the Kanak
people; thus, this research establishes the sacralizing vision of ancient Kanak myths
and an integral landscape of life in the Kanak world, the visible and the invisible;
rehabilitating the power of myth in the 21st century and by attributing it an academic
dignity, it valorizes the cultural capital of people.
This work has been welcomed as a true exploration, both novel and original, it
underlines the height and strength of Kanak deep thought and highlights fundamental
themes such as cosmological knowledge, the power of symbols and archetypes, etc.
This observation encourages the total recognition of the qualitative aspect of this
people. However, the current evolution is not going in this direction and has never
acknowledged these immaterial and intellectual resources. Therefore, its formalization
and institutionalization is suggested, since the State cannot ignore the fundamental
elements of Kanak society which can infer the proclamation of a prior sovereignty.
Once cannot deny that the French presence in New Caledonia, the successive
statuses and the institutional changes have never integrated in writing or in speech
the “pre-eminence, the full and legitimate connection to their land (existential and
ontological link, startling for the Cartesian mind, Kanak belong to their land, land does
not belong to them) and the sacred and inalienable character of the presence and
existence of the Kanak people, as well as the sovereignty they possess: the later comes
from the people and is complementary to the immaterial heritage…”
On this note, customary senators expressed their deep gratitude to an academic
researcher in structural anthropology, whose novel work was welcomed as having
valued and sacralized the fundamentals which structure Kanak civilization. This original
contribution fills a gap and demonstrates that “others” can understand, respect, and
give the Kanak people their essential and existential values back. Above all, this
contribution disrupts the one directional relation, which prevents the establishment of
a real exchange, and which leads to forceful imposition, regardless of the qualities and
values of the other. We seriously believe that France can take a step that it has never
taken before to show that it is a great nation capable, like the Kanak who welcomes
others, of recognizing “a timeless and original sovereignty”, an essential condition for
sharing in acceptance and understanding.
Indeed, it constitutes a new approach because a part of Kanak civilization was
destroyed in its anthropological foundations and its sociocultural organization by the
violence of French possession and the imposition of a “pax romana” without any
counterpart. The impacts are known: the annihilation of the history which precedes
September 24, 1853, the loss of identity in relation to languages, land, culture, beliefs,
etc. Kanak people’s ancestral land was considered “terra nullius”. This “terra nullius”
status was assigned to make it “lawful” for better armed countries which pretended to
be “more civilized” to seize, colonize and exploit territories and resources. That is in
spite of the fact that, in our traditions, not one centimeter of land or maritime territory
escaped the ontic link of belonging between the human and their land.
But in the meantime, the impacts on the being and doing of Kanak people have
been of a great violence and these harms are still present in 21st century Kanak society.
Some of these impacts have been acknowledged notably in the preamble of the
Nouméa Agreement, but no solution followed, through a holistic approach which could
have defined some “just” measures to implement so that the Kanak people could
recover its dignity.
It is time for France to react because in New Caledonia, a sly colonialism or
neocolonialism is currently at play, attempting to erase and negate the natural
sovereignty of the Kanak people on its territory, condemning it to eternally look for a
lost paradise. We do not want to die assimilated like a sugar cube in water and we will
resist to survive. Fortunately, some moral voices make themselves heard to denounce
this unjust system, as is the case with the Vatican.
In its “colonial” history, the Vatican shared discovered lands with different
European Christian countries, among which Portugal, Spain, France, etc. It ended up
ubi et orbi declaring the abandonment of the doctrine of discovery, which operated
from the 16th century and provided a framework to lay possessive claims, to
appropriate and to colonize, due to the destruction, damage, and other ills of
colonizers. More recently, Pope Francis declared in a message addressed to the
participants of the “colonization and neocolonialism: a social justice and common good
perspective” forum, which took place on March 30th and 31st, 2023 that neocolonialism
is sly, that it is a crime, and that there isn’t any possibility of peace in a world that
rejects some people in order to oppress them.
We even remember the unforgettable sentence marked by the “presidential”
seal, of candidate Emmanuel Macron in Algeria, stating that colonization is a crime
against humanity. This gives more weight to the papal message. Restorative action is
thus unavoidable and must lead to a deep reflection: Which people has suffered?
To whom do we owe reparation and apology before imposing and
We do not ask for pity, nor do we beg or repent, a confessional notion. We only
ask for justice through a holistic and recognized approach, that of transitional justice
with its four pillars, to reinvigorate a damaged people, which drags generation after
generation, the negative impacts on its being and its doing, as Solgenystine and other
experts remind us on the topic of colonialism.
But we are also aware of the “cultural” difficulty for the great colonizing
countries to go in the direction of colonized countries. As evidence, in the work of
French anthropologist François Pouillon on this issue:
Nations states hardly appreciate Native peoples, even more so when the latter
manifest some inclination toward autonomy, or worse, independence. At stake is the
power of sovereign states over the territories they govern and from which they most
often exploit the Native populations which are marginal in their eyes. If they resist,
they break the law and expose themselves to economic, juridical or even military
Contemporary centralized states are more so convinced of their efficacy and
legitimacy as they promote ideologies and values which they are always proud of: the
development of their technical and medical knowledges, the “universality” of their
confessional or secular beliefs, their “influence” in the world and, at last, their advanced
position in the evolution of humankind, all of this supported, more prosaically, by a
Native peoples, in their emphasis on their own territories, memories, institutions
and knowledges, would only slow them down on their path to perfection. This
tyrannical self-satisfaction feeds on the conviction, as François Pouillon underlines, that
“if others, abroad, sometimes have an enviable quality of life, in their closeness to
nature and the spiritual warmth of their group (which, however, does not protect them
from bloody dictatorships, ethnic cleanings, natural disasters and great modern
pandemics), they are, we believe, in a pitiful political state and remain, after all,
‘backward’.” (“Anthropologie des petites choses”, Le Bord de l’eau, 2015)
Colonial attitudes feed off this “naïve evolutionism” from which contempt
originates. From the lack of consideration to enslaved people in the Code Noir (royal
decree passed in 1685 aiming to define the conditions of slavery and its practices in
the French colonies) to the dehumanization of Jewish and Tzigane people in
extermination camps, through the stigmatization of “primitive” people and other
“indigènes” of the colonies, the same deadly chant is sung: May impure blood water
the fields of the civilization we embody. These references are not historical since,
today, Amazonia has been transformed into a gigantic inferno where the last Indians
die, while Uighurs, Rohingya, Roma, Aboriginal people, African Americans, Native
Americans and many others suffer a thousand deaths under the rule of nation-states
convinced of being at the top of social and human progress.
Will the Kanaks of New Caledonia also pay the price of the narcissism
of the powerful? And thus, of France?
“Rebalancing” policies all over the Pacific, Native populations have already
historically undergone a spectacular demographic decline (due to epidemics,
massacres, poisonings), land spoliation from non-Indigenous people, both rural and
urban, exclusion from the benefits of new economic initiatives (mining, extensive
breeding, exportation) and the moral attacks of Western monotheisms.
The paradox of New Caledonia is that France has recognized parts of its faults
by committing, from 1988, to important “rebalancing” policies aimed primarily at
Kanaks. Michel Rocard, when he was Prime Minister from 1988 to 1991, then Lionel
Jospin, from 1997 to 2002, also supported the industrial ambitions of pro-
independence leaders by enabling them to acquire a mine and to successfully extract,
process and export nickel. At the same time, strong support for the expression of
Kanak identity has marked the last thirty years with the creation of the Tjibaou Cultural
Center in May 1998, the revival of the Customary Senate [Kanak advisory assembly]
and taking into account the Indigenous point of view in the courts.
These significant developments, which have never been questioned by the
successive governments of the French Republic, have noticeably appeased the minds
and improved the daily life of all Caledonians in general, and Kanaks in particular. They
were combined with unprecedented institutional measures: the scheduling of three
referenda for self-determination, the creation of a special electoral roll used for polls
open solely to Caledonians who had settled before 1994 and the urge to all the
communities living in the archipelago to elaborate a “common destiny”. Alternative
forms of sovereignty.
This momentum did not lead to New Caledonia’s access to full sovereignty in
the first referendum on November 4, 2018, but it signaled a surprise surge in votes in
favor of independence (43.3%), a cause which Caledonian of European, Asian or
Oceanian descent have evidently joined. This trend was confirmed on October 4, 2020
with 47% of the population expressing their wish for New Caledonia to become
independent. If this progression is significant, these results won’t change the outcome.
The issue is not purely electoral or numerical.
It refers to much deeper forces. Oceanians, despite being victims of a denial of
existence, have created social organizations, practices and knowledges related to their
doing and being that are specific to them. Through relations to land, legitimacies to
power and counterpower, strategies of political and matrimonial alliances, whether
near or far, connections to the past, and visual and narrative creations, they have
developed an alternative form of sovereignty to the monolithic and absolute one that
is glorified by nation-states. The challenge of French and British colonization has
matured this nuanced and complex political thought, which is a source of resistance
and projects for the future. These gains are ineradicable and will not be phased by the
ephemeral results of a referendum.
In this context, how can we forge a genuine dialogue?
It seems to us that it is high time for the governing authority to look at the other
in order to have a mutual understanding, the basis of trust to create, promote, and
walk together with the ability and willingness to share a “modus operandi” through the
discussions and negotiations to come on the topic of other forms of governance.
Consensus proves to be a fundamental element in the important choices that
we had to make for the evolution of New Caledonia in light of the challenges of 21st
You have no other choice than to integrate this practice specific to the Pacific
or miss out on a successful statutory development project for New Caledonia.
Mrs Prime Minister, your government would gain from being in a “win-win”
approach, because everyone can assess what New Caledonia represents in this part of
the world. We are ready to discuss it.
Building new relationships of trust between our two countries, committing to
stability for the populations which have chosen to participate to New Caledonia’s
prosperity, and lastly, mastering the stakes, notably environmental, that we will have
to face are all challenges that we are willing to undertake. Therefore, the unique
trajectory assumed by the FLNKS for the accession to full sovereignty and
independence offers the outline that we wished to present to you.
The past 30 years of social stability have provided a conductive environment for
the unprecedented development of our country. The irreversible process of
decolonization put in place by the Nouméa Agreement has placed New Caledonia in
front of its growing responsibilities, leading us to be standing at the doors of the
“concert of nations”.
Considering our emancipation process, the FLNKS believes that we are ready to
assume the attributes of our sovereignty. Through a co-construction approach, we
suggest that the adoption of a political treaty enabling to seal a political basis
for this final phase of statutory evolution be studied.
This political agreement will guarantee:
• Reaching an independence bilaterally negotiated with the governing
• The continuation of the irreversible process of decolonization of New
• Obtaining an ultimate process that implements a program of accession to
full sovereignty and independence;
• Constitutionalizing the political agreement and the accession to
independence status, which includes the transition phase, the
sovereignty act and the proclamation of the birth of a new state.
Since 1986, New Caledonia has been on the UN list of countries to decolonize.
This acknowledgement on the international stage guarantees us rights without which
our deepest aspirations would not have been heard. And as long as our ultimate
conviction will not be respected, we will continue to make our struggle known.
Mrs Prime Minister, this year will mark the 25th year since the Nouméa
Agreement. It is our duty to cultivate this consensual state of mind, which has guided
all the stakeholders to this juridical innovation that recognized “the shadows of
Mrs Prime Minister, we will have to stand by the choices we make for our future
generations. As far as we are concerned, it is our duty never to surrender our right to
independence and we are convinced that the French State can succeed in the statutory
evolution of New Caledonia, within the context of the UN’s Fourth International Decade
for the Eradication of Colonialism.
To conclude, Mrs Prime Minister, this long introduction allows us to place in front
of you a historical and political trajectory that the Kanak people has been on for almost
two centuries of colonization. Today, the FLNKS and the entirety of the pro-
independence movement are convinced that the unique trajectory for the country to
access full sovereignty and independence is a logical destiny. We would like to
concretely know the ambitions of the central government.
Thank you for your attention.