“Independence struggles on our door-step”

Melanesian freedom movements readying for the referendums in New Caledonia and Bougainville, and the long fight for West Papua.

The next meeting of the 17 Group will be held at 7 pm on Wednesday the 7th of November in unit 6 at 20 Drury St., West End. It will be addressed by Dr Lee Duffield on the topic: “Independence struggles on our door-step: Melanesian freedom movements readying for the referendums in New Caledonia and Bougainville, and the long fight for West Papua.” Apart from its own intrinsic interest, this talk will be a fitting sequel to our excellent September meeting on Bougainville.


Movements for independence are active in three territories within the region known as Melanesia – in Bougainville (subject of recent discussions at the 17 Group), West Papua and also New Caledonia. Lee Duffield, journalist and journalism academic, who has presented at the 17 Group on two previous occasions, will give a report on the situation in West Papua and more especially New Caledonia, at the meeting on 7 November. That presentation will be three days after the November referendum on independence in New Caledonia — which territory was visited by Lee Duffield on Bastille Day, 14 July this year. (If the referendum confounds current opinion polls and goes for yes, it will have been the last Bastille Day as a national day in that part of the world).

Biographical notes:

Dr Lee Duffield is an Australian journalist and researcher, based in Brisbane. His research interests are in new media, European news, and development news with specialist interest in the Pacific region. For over 20 years he worked for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), where amongst several roles he was an overseas correspondent, and the first news editor on the organisation’s youth network, Triple-Jay. He was later a Senior Lecturer in Journalism at the Queensland University of Technology. He has published widely, continuing as Media Editor and columnist with the online publication Independent Australia, and as a Research Associate with the Pacific Media Centre, at the Auckland University of Technology, New Zealand – publisher of the Pacific Journalism Review.

Assuming that this whole subject might be well outside the remit of Leon, we were about to show him on the map we had brought with us, the location of Melanesia, and in our folder of cut-out newspaper articles, the most recent political assessments of the balance of forces between anti-independence parties like the Rally and Caledonia Together and pro-independence parties like KSLNF and Caledonian Union. But he waved them away impatiently, as, adjusting his famous spectacles, he read us in his accented French the latest bulletin from the Union Progressiste Melanesienne. Then he gave us a little lecture, fortunately not in French, on the folly of this now social democratic group’s having broken with the Ligue Communiste Revolutionnaire in France, the French section of the Fourth International (Post-Reunification). “Could they re-connect?”, we asked, uncertainly. “You don’t know then?”, he inquired with some irritation. “What?” “Nom de Dieu, messieurs! The Ligue officially abolished itself on the 5th of February 2009 to merge with smaller factions of the far left to form an Anti-Capitalist party”. After this now customary display of superior informativeness from Leon, we forbore to make any jesting remarks, as we had previously planned for our exit line, on the fall of any Melanesian Bastille.

Some supplementary material :
Lee Duffield has posted a series of articles on his researches, carried out both in New Caledonia and later in Paris, on various online outlets – see below. These include the Asia Pacific Report, put out by the Pacific Media Centre within Auckland University of Technology, where he is a Research Associate. He says that the PMC gives close attention to West Papua and he will draw on some of its work to comment on the independence struggle there. He says community and political leaders throughout Melanesia invoke common interests and culture across the region as a key support and also a separate ideological rationale for national independence in every corner of that region.

The international agency, the Melanesian Spearhead Group, has five members: Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu and Solomon islands, and the New Caledonia independence movement, the FLNKS — already recognised as the representative of that territory, not France as the colonising power. As well as those full members, associate membership is given to Indonesia, because West Papua is an Indonesian province, while observer status is given to the United Liberation Movement for West Papua (UMWP), and also observer status is held by Timor Leste. See http://www.msgsec.info/

NEW CALEDONIA: Decolonisation vote looms – what lies ahead?


Bastille Day … “It was like a refrain from colonial times, kepis under the coconut palms.” Image: Lee Duffield
Monday, July 30, 2018
Item: 10198

NOUMEA (Asia Pacific Report/Pacific Media Watch): In France’s most far-flung territory, Kanaky/New Caledonia, this year’s Bastille Day celebrations earlier this month were as normal, though technically at least, those might have been the last as the national day.

Lee Duffield who has been in New Caledonia watching the lead-up to the referendum on independence set for November 4, says a “yes” vote would overturn decades of deal-making and compromise.

New Caledonia: What next? Lee Duffield’s three-part series
In a three-part series in the Pacific Media Centre’s Asia Pacific Report, journalist and media academic Dr Duffield talks to all sides and provides a nuanced analysis of the future for this territory of 300,000 people – which vies with Tonga as being the closes part of the Pacific to New Zealand.
“The Quatorze Juillet (14 July) events as in any small French city reflected the grand military parade down the Champs Elysees in Paris – ranks of soldiers and a senior officer taking the salute,” writes Dr Duffield, a research associate of the PMC and an editorial board member of Pacific Journalism Review.

“It was like a refrain from colonial times, kepis under the coconut palms, as if no breath of a wind of change was anywhere being felt.”

“Not that a full independence is greatly expected from the coming vote, mandated under agreements made by the country’s political groups with the French government – the Matignon Accord (1988) and Noumea Accord (1998).

“Opinion polls have been running strongly against it and even many in the indigenous Kanak community can be heard to say it is ‘not yet the time’.

“Certainly the events of Bastille Day and then the World Cup made it ‘France Week’, not the best time to talk change.”

Read Dr Duffield’s full series:

· Part 1 in the New Caledonia series: New Caledonia celebrates Bastille Day and thinks about independence

· Part 2: Decolonisation in New Caledonia – who decides the future?

· Part 3: Reconciling New Caledonia: A vote to clear the air on independence?


New Caledonia: Does the French public actually want to ‘set it free’?



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