Pacific News Minute: New Caledonia “Drowning in Alcohol”

Dec 26, 2017

Credit Wikimedia Commons

A main road on the French Island of New Caledonia was closed for part of the weekend after more violence. An emergency doctor says a pick-up truck repeatedly rammed his vehicle from behind and forced him off the road in what he said was an attempted murder. We have more from Neal Conan in today’s Pacific News Minute.

Violence closed the road that runs south from the capital, Noumea at several points this past year.

At times, young men from the town of Saint Louis erected barricades of burning cars and tires and engaged in running battles with police. Police would then stage raids to arrest suspects, which prompted more anger and more protests.

During the worst of the confrontations, groceries, gasoline and medical supplies were ferried around the barricades to the southern part of the island by boat. After a period of relative calm, a driver rammed into several vehicles near Saint Louis earlier this month, and after this latest incident, emergency doctors said they feared for their safety and will not travel south of Noumea.

Politics and race are part of the problem – tensions have been running high in advance of a referendum on independence later this year. But New Caledonia’s government also blames alcohol abuse.

Newly re-elected President Phillippe Germain says reported crime is up 30 percent from 2009 to 2016 and that most crimes involve alcohol. Deaths in traffic accidents are four times higher than in France; there are also many more arrests per capita for domestic abuse and public brawling. Announcing a 25 percent hike in the tax on alcohol and other measures, President Germain said New Caledonia is a society downing in alcohol, and he described marijuana as a weapon of mass destruction for young people.