PARIS, Nov. 4 (Xinhua) — French President Emmanuel Macron on Sunday welcomed the outcome of independence referendum of New Caledonia that voted against independence of the South Pacific archipelago from France.
“I must first express my great pride that we have together passed this historic stage. I also want to express as a head of state the pride that the majority of the Caledonians had chosen France,” Macron said in a televised address.
“It’s a sign of confidence in the French Republic, in its future, in its values,” he added shortly after partial results showed the “No” vote was largely ahead in the independence referendum.
According to partial results Sunday, about 60 percent of 175,000 people eligible to vote — mainly descendants of colonial settlers, voted to remain loyal to Paris.
“The only loser is the temptation of scorn, violence, the only winner is the spirit of dialogue … the spirit of responsibility that has led to an exceptional participation of New Caledonia people,” the French President stressed, inviting ” everyone to look to the future to build the New Caledonia of tomorrow.”
Speaking about the pro-independence indigenous Kanaks, Macron pledged “to guarantee the long-term dignity of all parts of the society.”
Located more than 16,700 km from France mainland, New Caledonia became a French colony in 1853.
Dubbed “confetti of the French empire,” the archipelago was declared a French overseas territory in 1946, that depends heavily on France for economy, defense and education.
The Nickel-rich island is home to 269,000 people, 39.1 percent of whom are indigenous Melanesians, known as Kanaks, while 27 percent are Caldoches, descendants of French settlers, alongside a smattering of other minorities from Polynesia, Indonesia and Vietnam.