New Caledonia Union Leader, Members Briefly Detained

New Caledonia's Union of Kanak and Exploited Workers (USTKE) leader Gérard Jodar was on Monday arrested and briefly heard by French police in New Caledonia, as part of what is described as an enquiry into recent events, including demonstrations and incidents reports >New Caledonia's public prosecutor Robert Blaser told local media Jodar and three other YSTKE prominent members were arrested early on Monday and were released some 12 hours later, early in the evening of the same day.

Blaser said the arrests were in relation to recent incidents, including blockades and a violent confrontation with local police, which saw the officers slightly injured.

The incidents took place during a recent visit in New Caledonia by French State Secretary for overseas territories Christian Estrosi.

During his visit, Estrosi had warned that the French government would no longer tolerate blockades such as those organised by New Caledonia unions on a regular basis.
The French minister also lashed out at the then French High Commissioner, Michel Mathieu, for not authorising the French police to intervene in union-generated conflicts and blockades, even when a Court warrant had been issued.

As a result, Mathieu resigned last month.

In response, USTKE on Monday has condemned what it regards as exaggerated force towards its members and what it calls the ongoing "criminalisation of the exercise of union rights".

The union has called on yet another general strike, on Wednesday this week, in protest against the arrests.

The string of events also coincides with the formal announcement, at the weekend, of USTKE's political wing, a new party in New Caledonia, which it was decided, would be called the "Labour" party.


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