A statue of the handshake between Jacques Lafleur and Jean-Marie Tjibaou at the signing of the Matignon Accords on June 26, 1988 was inaugurated on Sunday in Noumea amid hopes that this spirit of reconciliation will continue as New Caledonia is in search of a new political consensus.

The Matignon agreements, signed under the aegis of Michel Rocard, then Prime Minister, had sealed the reconciliation between loyalists and separatists after several years of deadly violence in the archipelago, including the tragedy of the Ouvéa cave in May 1988. was the climax, with 21 dead, including 19 Kanak activists and two soldiers.

This imposing bronze statue of the two men – Jean-Marie Tjibaou who represented the FLNKS (independenceist) and Jacques Lafleur the RPCR (anti-independenceist) – was unveiled in the center of Nouméa, on a site now called “Place de paix”. or “Koo Wee Joka”, in a Kanak language. The choice of this place is symbolic because for more than a century the statue of a controversial figure in colonial history has been enthroned there, that of the governor who organized the bloody repression of the first Kanak revolt in 1878.

The widow of the independence leader, Marie-Claude Tjibaou, the daughter of Jacques Lafleur, Isabelle, and the mayor of Noumea, Sonia Lagarde are at the base of this project. The inaugural ceremony brought together elected officials from all sides, state representatives, traditional Kanak chiefs and several hundred Caledonians.

“More than ever, we will need to be inspired by the spirit of the handshake” as part of the dialogue that the State “will open with all New Caledonian partners in the coming weeks”, assured Prime Minister Elisabeth. Terminal, in a message read on the spot by the High Commissioner of the Republic.

Yaël Braun-Pivet was to participate in the inauguration but the one who will only have been Minister of Overseas for a month? she walked out of government on Sunday? had to cancel his trip to more than 16,000 kilometers from the metropolis, because of his candidacy for the presidency of the National Assembly.

In a speech mixing emotion and political message, Ms. Tjibaou, whose husband was assassinated in 1989 by a radical separatist, declared that “to celebrate peace today in the shadow of these two great men is to remember that the responsibility is first individual before being collective”, because “both were not mandated by their respective political apparatuses to sign these agreements”. For “34 years we have spent our time cultivating our differences instead of encouraging the emergence of a shared identity”, lamented Ms. Tjibaou.

“Never forget that here (…) more than 90 people died out of a population of 160,000 people (between 1981 and 1988, editor’s note)”, underlined Isabelle Lafleur. “We are today at a crossroads”, she launched, while the dialogue is broken down, after the third referendum of self-determination of December 12, 2021.

If this election, boycotted by the separatists, was won hands down by the pro-France (96.5%), it above all radicalized the positions. The loyalists demand “a definitive status in France” while the separatists want to discuss “one-on-one with the State the accession to full sovereignty”.

06/26/2022 10:23:21 – Noumea (AFP) – © 2022 AFP