Roads Blocks

We are on day 14 of the truckers protest here in New Caledonia. Truckers or “Les Rouleurs” are protesting the recently signed agreement between the government of all three provinces about the future of nickel in New Caledonia. Without getting to into the matter, it basically boils down to this. New Caledonia houses a great deal of the worlds Nickel reserves. There is high-grade nickel and low-grade. The truckers want the low-grade sold to China and they want to haul it creating work for them. Its more complicated than that; with market values, political points and such but you get the idea? So, since they are unhappy they have decided to show their discontent by first blocking the government offices in Noumea. After about a week or so they decided to escalate their protest and set up road block with their dump trucks. Originally, the road blocks were on key streets or roundabouts slowing the in and out of Noumea proper, but this past Monday, they blocked the entrance to the gas depot. This caused widespread panic as people lined up to fill their tanks before the gas stations would run dry. A day later that blockade was moved and all entry and exit points into and out of Noumea were blocked, with only ambulances being allowed in and out. Let me put this into perspective for you. We live in the North, almost all our food, gas and goods come from Noumea, the entry port to the island. The only place you can have a baby or surgery are the hospitals in Noumea. (Koumac, no longer provides these services). This is a big deal. Along with the Noumea blockade there are road blocks in Paita, Tontouta (the international airport), La Foa, Bourail, Nepoui, and Koumac. There is no mail be delivered, no businesses open in Noumea, daycares are closed because people can’t get to work and there is no meal services to them. The place is a ghost town. Members of the Congrès but forth a petition signed by 16 of the members of the Congrès to hold an emergency meeting of the government. But, because of the number of signatures, not being enough according to the law(the need 28) it was denied. At this time the truckers were  granted a meeting at 4pm if they removed the roadblocks. They were a no-show and did not remove the road blocks.  So, the President of the Congres asked the Haut Commisaire to step in aka France. From bedtime last night some kind of agreement to meet was agreed upon and the Haut Commisaire and les rouleurs are meeting at 9am this morning. There are conflicting reports as to what is unblocked. Apparently nothing in the North has been taken down. There are still many road blocks. In and out of Noumea is unclear, some reports saying its all clear while others are conflicting saying that they are still there. Whatever the case there is so much confusion. People in Noumea don’t know if they should go to work or stay home until after the meeting. Whatever the case may be it’s so interesting to watch it all unfold. The lack of information is astounding and the rumour mill is incredible. Luckily we are somewhat unaffected at this point, businesses in Koné remain open. But the lack of movement of food, gas etc from Noumea will reach us soon I  imagine. So, I will keep you updated. The meeting will begin in 40 or so minutes. I guess its wait and see. Another day, another adventure in New Caledonia.

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