Macron honors New Caledonians before independence vote

Macron honors New Caledonians before independence vote
French President Emmanuel Macron pays tribute to the Kanak tribe of Hwadrilla, where the 19 Kanak militants are buried, on Ouvea Island, off New Caledonia, Saturday, May 5, 2018 during ceremonies marking the 30th , anniversary of when Kanak tribesmen took French police hostage on Ouvea island. Four gendarmes and 19 hostage-takers died. The French territory in the South Pacific that is getting ready to vote on its independence — the last step in a three-decade-long decolonization process. (AP Photo/Theo Rouby)

NOUMEA, New Caledonia (AP) — French President Emmanuel Macron has acknowledged the “pain of colonization” during a visit to New Caledonia, as the South Pacific archipelago prepares to vote on whether to break free of French rule.

Macron paid homage Saturday to 19 independence activists killed 30 years ago after taking police hostage in the town of Ouvea. Four soldiers were also killed.

Later, Macron handed over two documents that declared in 1853 that New Caledonia was a French possession, saying that “we are no longer in a time of possession, but a time of choice, and collective responsibility.”

He said “France would not be the same without New Caledonia” but was careful not to openly campaign for the territory to stay French when it holds an independence referendum in November.