France’s nuclear legacy in French Polynesia is on the table

France’s nuclear legacy in French Polynesia is the subject of high level discussions in Paris this week.

The discussions aim to ‘turn the page’ on the aftermath of the weapons tests. Between 1966 to 1996, France carried out 193 tests in the South Pacific.

French president Emmanuel Macron called the meeting after a new study about a 1974 atmospheric weapons test caused an outcry.

The study ‘Toxique’ concluded the fallout from the tests affected everyone, not just those in the immediate testing zone around Morurua as the public had been told.

French Polynesia’s president Edouard Fritch welcomes Macron’s initiative.

However the opposition, nuclear veteran groups and the dominant Maohi Protestant Church are rejecting the initiative. They say delegation lacks credibility and legitimacy.

Fritch says the talks should bring ‘truth and justice’. The agenda includes looking at the tests’ impact on health and the environment, as well as the financial costs.

The Tahitian delegation also wants France to acknowledge its nuclear legacy in the constitution.

Fritch will be asking Macorn “to give us a precise timetable and above all to send us competent people in the matters that will be discussed.”

A representative of the territorial assembly and the territory’s members of the French legislature, will also attend the meetings, along with employer and union delegates.

French Polynesia’s former president Gaston Flosse, who for decades defended France’s testing regime, was not invited.

The pro-independence Tavini Huiraatira party has rejected the invitation to Paris outright. They say the planned talks are a sham.

Temaru says such talks should not be held in the capital of the colonising power, but in New York under the auspices of the United Nations.

While France refuses to acknowledge the 2013 UN decision to reinscribe French Polynesia on the decolonisation list, Temaru insists that “the right of peoples to self-determination is a sacred right.”

Other boycotting the talks include members of the nuclear test veterans organisation.

Its leader says after 50 years of people suffering from the test legacy, those going to Paris put money at the forefront of their demands and not ethics.

Although the Maohi Protestant Church has declined to attend the talks, it has invited Macron to attend its synod while he is in Tahiti during the coming months.

The church leader says if they had gone to Paris, they would be misled.

In Tahiti the presence of the local people would create a counterweight to Macron.

The church says the French state proceeded with the tests despite knowing the impact of nuclear testing since before 1963.

Both the church and the Tavini Huiraatira Party say this amounts a crime against humanity.

Three years ago, they took their case to the International Criminal Court, but it is not known if the Court has accepted their complaint.

Paris roundly rejected the claims, saying it was a misuse of the court’s international jurisdiction for local political purposes.

French Polynesia has paid $US800 million to treat a total of 10,000 people suffering from radiation-related cancer.

France has not reimbursed this money.

Developmental disorders are common. In 2018, a study reported pervasive developmental disorders in zones close to the Morurua weapons test site.

The study leader says a quarter of children he treats for pervasive developmental disorders have intellectual disabilities or deformities, which he attributes to genetic mutations.


Additional reading

News category: Top Story, World.

Tags: , , , ,