Former President Tommy Remengesau Jr. is among the Pacific leaders calling for the delay of the next referendum on self-determination in New Caledonia scheduled on Dec. 12 due to the recent surge of Covid-19.

The new group includes former Pacific Islands Forum Secretary General Dame Meg Taylor of Papua New Guinea, P former Tuvalu President Enele Sopoaga, former US congressman Robert Underwood of Guahan (Guam) and former presidents Anote Tong of Kiribati, Remengesau of Palau, and Hilda C. Heine of the Marshall Islands (Dr. Heine, a leading Pacific educator and the first woman to serve as RMI President, has just been appointed as pro-Chancellor of the regional University of the South Pacific).

“We understand that the proposed referendum under the Noumea Accord, scheduled for 12 December, is not supported by the indigenous people of New Caledonia,” the letter reads. “We are aware of their concerns, as we across the Pacific – in Micronesia, Polynesia, and Melanesia – have faced tragedy with the deaths of our peoples, greater isolation as well as the economic downturn of our economies. We acknowledge and understand the concerns of our brothers and sisters in New Caledonia and their wishes to defer the third referendum until all mourning protocols had been adhered to at the time of death burial, and throughout our traditional mourning period times,” the statement said.

The leaders also urged the French government to be open to the “voice of the people.” And to show consideration and respect for their wishes” to avert any potential violence and keep the dialogue open.

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