Sarkozy cancels Antilles trip amid colonialism row

7th December 2005, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Dec 7 (AFP) - French Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy has cancelled a three-day trip this week to the country's Caribbean Antilles islands amid a simmering row over a law that casts a positive light on France's colonial past.

PARIS, Dec 7 (AFP) - French Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy has cancelled a three-day trip this week to the country's Caribbean Antilles islands amid a simmering row over a law that casts a positive light on France's colonial past.

In an interview published Wednesday in the France Antilles newspaper, Sarkozy, who was set to leave Thursday for Martinique then Guadeloupe for a trip focused on the fight against illegal immigration and drug trafficking, said he had decided to push back the visit by several weeks.

"I can see that a number of polemics -- which are due to misunderstandings over the law of February 4, 2005 but are still very real -- have caused strong feelings," the minister wrote, saying the conditions were not right for a "serene" visit.

A number of protest rallies were planned across the island of Martinique to coincide with Sarkozy's visit, called by rights groups, left-wing politicians, unions and artists who want to see the controversial law revoked.

France's centre-right ruling party last week voted down an opposition attempt to repeal the law, which calls for schools to teach the "positive role" played by France during the colonial period.

In Martinique, colonised by France in the mid 17th-century, critics of the law say it amounts to justifying "the extermination of peoples, the eradication of indigenous cultures and widespread looting" in many colonised lands.

One of France's most eminent writers about colonialism, the former deputy Aime Cesaire, had refused to meet Sarkozy during his visit.

Other rallies had also been called in the Martinique capital Fort-de-France to protest a raft of tough new immigration and security measures announced after last month's suburban riots in France.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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