France is sending police reinforcements to New Caledonia, one of its overseas territories in the South Pacific. The move comes after clashes between riot police and protesters who are demanding a general strike.
One gendarme sustained a gunshot wound to the leg from a hunting rifle. He was one of two officers and four demonstrators to be injured. There are fears that the unrest could escalate still further. It began in March with a dispute between the USTKE union and the local airline Aircal over the sacking of a stewardess. Since then, the union’s president has been jailed for blocking planes as part of the protest, further fuelling the anger. Both sides have just signed an agreement on that dispute, but the unrest had already taken on a much broader tone. A week ago, the USTKE called for a general strike, and each day since there have been skirmishes between trade unionists and police. New Caledonia is the third French overseas territory to have experienced turmoil this year. Guadeloupe in the Caribbean and Reunion in the Indian Ocean have also witnessed strikes and violence.