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Asia-Pacific

New Caledonia government collapses in row over flags

media The Kanak flag is at the centre of the dispute in New Caledonia

The coalition government of New Caledonia collapsed on Thursday after members of a pro-independence party withdrew in a dispute over the French Pacific island territory’s flags. 

The Caledonian Union accused the head of the territory’s administration, Philippe Gomes, of reneging on an agreement struck last July to fly the Kanak flag, a symbol of the indigenous population, alongside the French tricolour.

New Caledonia was a French territory until 1999. But the 1998 Noumea Accord resolved that powers of government would gradually be transferred from France over the following 15-20 years.

The agreement also states that the territory should hold a referendum on full independence from France between 2014 and 2019.

The congress is due to elect a new government on 3 March but Gomes said his party would resign in the hope of forcing Paris to call an election in the territory.

The 230,000-strong island group is divided between Kanaks, a Melanesian ethnic group who make up about 44 per cent of the population, and ethnic Europeans, who make up 34 per cent.

 
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