NEW CALEDONIA ANTI-INDEPENDENCE LEADER LAFLEUR PUBLISHES BIOGRAPHY

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NOUMEA, New Caledonia (May 8, 2000 – Oceania Flash/SPC)---New Caledonia's anti-independence leader Jacques Lafleur’s biography was officially introduced last week. It is a testimony of 25 years of political life in the French territory, the daily newspaper Les Nouvelles Calédoniennes reports.

The 265-page book, called "L'assiégé" (Besieged), focuses on 68-year-old Lafleur's political life and his perspective on the political evolution of New Caledonia.

Lafleur is the President of New Caledonia's Northern Province and the leader of the anti-independence RPCR (Rally for New Caledonia within the French Republic).

In his biography, he gives his view on a crucial period in the recent history of New Caledonia.

After a period of grave civil unrest related to the independence issue in the French territory, which peaked in 1984-85, pro-independence leader Jean-Marie Tjibaou and Lafleur, in 1988, signed with then French Prime Minister Michel Rocard, the Matignono, setting a framework for gradual autonomy and an economic re-balancing between the Northern and Southern provinces.

Then the Matignon Accords were followed by the Noumea Accord, signed by Lafleur, FLNKS (Kanak Socialist National Liberation Front) leader Roch Wamytan and French Prime Minister Lionel Jospin.

The new Noumea Accord provides for more autonomy, a gradual transfer of power from France to New Caledonia and envisages possible independence for the French territory in "15 to 20 years."

Lafleur, close to current right-wing French President Jacques Chirac, is very critical of former Socialist Head of State François Mitterrand, who ruled France from 1981 to 1995. Mitterrand died in 1996.

"He had chosen little New Caledonia to find himself a fresh decolorizing virtue," Lafleur writes, recalling that in his early days as a colony minister in the early fifties, Mitterrand had been a strong opponent of independence for another then French colony, Algeria.

He also is critical of French government socialist officials who, in the early eighties, were posted in New Caledonia and dealt with the civil unrest between opposing pro and anti independence factions, mainly Kanak versus French white settlers, known there as "Caldoche."

Lafleur also refers to a "brotherly love story" between himself and Chirac. The "love story" however had its ups and downs when Lafleur openly betrayed Chirac in 1995 by supporting his opponent, Edouard Balladur, in the Presidential campaign.

Lafleur also pays homage to late Kanak pro-independence leader Jean-Marie Tjibaou, with whom he signed the Matignon Accords that restored civil peace in the French territory.

"Often, a man is greater dead than alive. But I still believe Tjibaou would have been greater and more useful alive," Lafleur wrote.

The first day of sale of the New Caledonia's strongman's biography was marked by a rush at local bookshops, with some 535 books sold on Friday.

"I'm buying this book because I think (Lafleur) is a privileged witness of New Caledonia's political history," a purchaser said.

In an interview with Les Nouvelles, Lafleur denies being trapped into a specific image.

"You don't need to project an image here; others usually do it for you. So I have been a bastard, a mafia member, an anti-Kanak, even a savior, a Messiah, the only one to be able to bridge all our communities. Where is the truth in all that? I don't know. And to be frank, I don't give a damn," Lafleur told Les Nouvelles.

"But I'm ready to stay just a little bit longer if people still want me around."

He also mentioned his distaste for "Parisians" who "did harm to New Caledonia" and the media because "powers are always too big where there is no control."

"When journalists are nothing but political agents, nothing is right."

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