NOUMEA, NEW CALEDONIA — Thousands heremourned their two murdered leaders yesterday, as French Prime Minister Michel Rocard arrived in an attempt to maintain peace in this Pacific island. ``We are now back at the point we faced a year ago. It is a choice between violence and peace,'' Mr. Rocard said.
Jean-Marie Tjibaou and Yeweine Yeweine, moderate leaders of the National Socialist Kanak Liberation Front (FLNKS), were shot May 4. Last July Mr. Tjibaou signed an agreement with French settlers and Rocard's government, thus ending violence between native Melanesians seeking independence and white settlers who want to stay part of France.
Official sources say hard-line separatists opposed to the accord are behind the attack. Under the pact, the FLNKS agreed to putting off a referendum on independence for 10 years. In exchange, elections were to have been held next month to appoint regional councils with a large degree of autonomy. The elections have now been postponed.