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Demonstrators demanded release of union leader

NOUMÉA, New Caledonia (Oceania Flash, July 28, 2009) - Members and sympathizers from the mainly indigenous Kanak USTKE (Union of Kanak and Exploited Workers) have once again clashed with French police in New Caledonia’s capital Nouméa as they were attempting to demonstrate in front of the local government and Parliament buildings on Tuesday.

The demonstration was meant to demand the release of USTKE President Gérard Jodar who was sentenced earlier this month to a one year jail term.

Jodar had been found guilty of disrupting air traffic during previous violent clashed at the domestic airport of Magenta several weeks ago.

[PIR editor’s note: The term "Kanak" generally refers to the indigenous Melanesian inhabitants of New Caledonia. The word is derived from "Kanaka," the Hawaiian reference to foreigners, which was widely used by early European visitors to refer to Pacific islanders in general ]

Since Monday, also as part of their moves to demand Jodar’s release, which they claim is a manifestation of a "colonial judiciary", USTKE executives have also called for a general strike which has since been face with firm response from French Police.

The usual tactics of "revolving pickets" was met by police stepping in and dislodging picketers in front of key buildings in the capital Nouméa.

The clashes on Tuesday also coincided with the arrival of French government’s State Secretary for Overseas, Marie-Luce Penchard, who is in New Caledonia on her first visit, until the end of this week.

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