Led by the Malvatumauri Council of Chiefs (MCC), Vanuatu citizens in Port Vila organised a peaceful parade from Saralana Park to the French Embassy yesterday.

The event aimed to show solidarity with the Kanak people in New Caledonia.

“This will be marked in the history of Kanak people. A similar parade was held in 1980 when Vanuatu gained its independence,” Chief Paul Robert Ravun, President of the MCC said. “Today, we march again, led by the chiefs, to honor our friends, the Kanaks, who have longed for the same privilege but have not yet achieved it.

“At this stage, we hear about the ongoing situation causing many deaths. As part of the Melanesian countries, Vanuatu wants to show the same respect through a peaceful parade, expressing our condolences to our brothers in Kanaky, some of whom have lost their lives.”

The parade was supported by a petition signed by the MCC, Vanuatu Christian Council (VCC), Vanuatu National Council of Women (VNCW), Vanuatu National Youth Council (VNYC), Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), and various Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs). The petition was presented to the French ambassador and included the following translated points:

To the French Government, the French Ambassador, and the Republic of France:

This petition addresses the ongoing civil unrest and loss of life among the Kanak people in New Caledonia. We, the undersigned, advocate for dialogue and roundtable discussions with the French government. We urge the facilitation of the transition outlined in United Nations (UN) Resolution 1514. Dated the 7th of June, 2024, we present the following points:

  1. Recognition of Indigenous People: We call on the French government to formally acknowledge the Kanaky people as Indigenous, recognising their rights, freedoms, and dignity in accordance with the UN Convention on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
  2. Denouncing Discrimination: We denounce all forms of discrimination and call for the establishment of peace and harmonious relations based on justice, democracy, respect for human rights, non-discrimination, and good faith.
  3. Decolonisation of Kanaky: The French government must initiate peaceful measures to support the independence of the Kanaky people, including recognising and respecting their customs, traditional practices, customary land rights, and organisational structures, as mandated by UN Resolution 1514.
  4. Immediate Cessation of Military Operations: The French government must cease all military operations in New Caledonia and withdraw its troops immediately to pave the way for dialogue and end the violence affecting the Kanaky people. Additionally, they must stop the clearing of lands and respect the constitutional rights of the Kanaky.
  5. Independent International Investigations: We call for independent international and UN bodies to investigate the killings and violence against the Kanaky people. The French government must allow these bodies entry to ensure transparency and accountability, with public reports made available.
  6. Support for Kanaky Independence: The relationship between Kanaky, New Caledonia, and Vanuatu is deeply rooted in shared history and ancestral ties. We demand that the French government take necessary measures regionally and internationally to address the rights of the Kanaky people, ensuring they can secure their rights and freedoms without intimidation or force.

Signatories: This petition is supported by the MCC, VCC, VNCW, VNYC, CSOs, and various NGOs.

In response, French Ambassador Jean-Baptiste Jeangène Vilmer said, “First of all, I would like to thank the Council of Chiefs for organising this peaceful demonstration. We take note of the message that has been transmitted to us and will immediately forward all these elements to Paris. We also thank the law enforcement officers who ensured safety throughout the day. Thank you very much.”

Chief Ravun also expressed his gratitude, saying, “I want to thank everyone for showing that we can parade peacefully. Thank you to all the people who stood behind us and made today possible. This moment will be marked in history.”