France’s Macron visits New Caledonia ahead of independence referendum

President Emmanuel Macron begins a symbolic visit to New Caledonia on Thursday, as the French territory in the South Pacific prepares ready to vote on its independence. The visit comes just six months ahead of a self-determination referendum in which voters will answer the question: “Do you want New Caledonia to gain full sovereignty and become independent?” Based on electoral results and recent polls, the people are likely to vote to remain with France, observers say. Macron will hand the Caledonian government the document that established the archipelago as a French possession in 1853, AP reports. On Saturday, the president will also attend ceremonies marking the 30th anniversary of a police hostage-taking by Kanak tribesmen on Ouvea Island. Four gendarmes and 19 hostage-takers died in the incident.