Wednesday, 4 June 2014

New Caledonia: We are all Rebels now

New Caledonia: We are Rebels Press TV doc

New Caledonia known by its indigenous name as Kanaky after the Kanak people is one of thousands of Pacific Islands that continues to be ruled by France since 1774. New Caledonia is part of Melanesia, the area of Pacific Ocean home to Pacific islanders who are of darker hues, could easily be mistaken for West or East Africans and Aboriginal Australians, share cultural and language connections with Aborginals, larger Pacific islands and distance African neighbors. Melanesians are descendants of African ancestors who migrated from the African continent crossed into Asia and eventually made their way down to the different islands. Fiji, Vanuatu, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Polynesia and Guinea are part of the Melanesian islands. Other islands like Somoa, Marshall islands, American Somoa, Guam and Micronesia also share similar cultures and history with New Caledonia. The Kanaks are the indigenous people of Kanaky or New Caledonia who interacted with the world long before the French could find the Pacific Islands on a map. Many islands rely on sea faring and shipping for trade and exchanges of products, peoples and cultures. The Polynesians come to mind as one of the Pacific's early sea goers. The history of Pacific Islands have much to do with its strategic locations and the nerving geopolitics that have pulled the islands in different directions towards foreign powers and their economic and foreign policies for years. With each pull, the Kanaks and their neighbors have put their foot down in seeking to determine their own policies, cultural identity and futures.

New Caledonia in Melanesia and Pacific Ocean

Colonialism and self determination

Pacific islands were split among the different Western powers including Japan by the 18th century. The West has relied on navigating the Pacific first by boat and now by plane and satellite for nearly 400 years. In search of spices, new markets, slaves and control of resources and new lands, Western Europeans expanded their travels to the islands from mainland Asia specifically China whose been contact with the West for 1000 years. France, Britain, the United States Portugal, Spain, Australia and Germany divided up the thousands of islands along with the largest islands Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, Malaysia and Australia among themselves in the same manner as African continent and Americas. French in New Caledonia as in other Pacific islands Polynesia and Tahiti, superimposed the French language, culture and history onto the Kanaks. Kanak identity, culture and history was shoved aside than suppressed for decades at the expense of the people. French settlers were to move to New Caledonia while the colonial authorities kept the Kanaks living in inhuman conditions or borderline slaves. The Kanaks protested and fight against the French colonial forces for two hundred years. Using a combination of guerrilla warfare and war of attrition, the Kanak rebels named, "Kanak and Socialist National Liberation Front" or FLNKS in French, mounted gun battles and carried out hostage taking to bring the Kanak people's marginalization, fight for independence and self determination to the world's attention. It wasn't until the late 1980s when the Kanaks finally seriously threatened centuries of French colonial rule on the island, that French Presidenti Mitterand and his administrations began to even consider independence for New Caledonia. For years, French officials have viewed New Caledonia or Kanaky as an inseperable part of the French overseas territory in the Pacific. Like Algeria, France never considered relinquishing power of New Caledonia's political system or governance over to the indigenous Kanaks. French is still the lingua franca on the island although the Kanak language is a first language for many people. French settlers remain on the island as a minority ethnic group along with some 10+ethnic groups from neighboring countries Indonesians and as far away as Vietnam. A referendum for independence is supposed to be held in New Caledonia between 2014-2016.

Melanesia in Pacific Islands

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