Jean Lèques, emblematic mayor of Nouméa from 1986 to 2014, died at the age of 90, arousing many tributes from the New Caledonian political class towards this “man of peace and conviction”, ardent defender of the maintenance of the island in France.

Weakened for several years, Jean Lèques died “peacefully” at his home, we learned on Wednesday from his relatives.

In the evening, the President of the Republic Emmanuel Macron paid tribute to this “life devoted to the service of our country, of New Caledonia, and of peace”.

“Jean Lèques devoted his life to the

Sonia Lagarde, who succeeded him as mayor of Nouméa in 2014, hailed “with the greatest respect” his “commitment” and his “requirement in the service of his city”, while the flags were lowered at half-mast. town hall, the seat of government, Congress and the South Province.

“It is a giant of New Caledonian political life who has left us”, for his part reacted the deputy Philippe Dunoyer, who will consequently suspend his campaign for the legislative elections on Friday and Saturday.

In a press release, the collegiate government, of which Jean Lèques was the first president from May 1999 to March 2001 after the signing of the Nouméa agreement, for its part paid tribute to “a man of convictions, of great culture and of an extraordinary memory”, who “devoted a real passion to New Caledonia”.

Withdrawn from political life since 2014, Jean Lèques was one of the signatories of this agreement which organizes the decolonization in stages of New Caledonia.

“At a time when the first President of the Collegial Government of New Caledonia is passing away, resulting from the Nouméa Agreement, an agreement which is coming to an end, it is up to us to collectively build the future institutions of New Caledonia in the respect (…) of the choice, freely consented and expressed three times, of Caledonians. In this, the memory of Jean Lèques obliges us”, greeted Emmanuel Macron on Wednesday.

A man of dialogue, Jean Lèques had also signed the Matignon agreements, which brought peace to the South Pacific archipelago in 1988.

Elected for the first time in 1967 to the Territorial Assembly, Jean Lèques was re-elected in this institution, renamed Congress in 1989, without interruption until 2009.

A devout Catholic, this Christian democrat had first been active in the progressive and multiracial Union Calédonienne (UC), before joining the ranks of the Rassemblement pour la Calédonie dans la République (RPCR, affiliated to the RPR) in 1978 when the UC took up the cause of the independence of New Caledonia.

One of his last political commitments was the presidency of a “committee of wise men”, set up by former Prime Minister Édouard Philippe, to ensure that the campaign for the first referendum on independence in 2018 ran smoothly. This committee also officiated in the referendums of 2020 and 2021.

Born on August 31, 1931 in the Vallée du Tir district of Nouméa, which he never left, Jean Lèques, nicknamed “Fifils” by all Caledonians, came from a family present on “Le Caillou” since the end of the 19th century.

After studying law in mainland France, this American history buff had opened a notary’s office in Noumea.

Honorary mayor of Nouméa since 2014, he was elevated to the rank of Grand Officer of the Legion of Honor by Emmanuel Macron, who presented him with this decoration in May 2018 during a trip to Nouméa.

cw-nk-aco-al / pga / gvy

01/06/2022 21:54:52 – Noumea (AFP) – © 2022 AFP