23 February 2012

Maohi Nui/Fr. Polynesia Veterans say compensation for victims of French nuclear testing inadequate

Moruroa e tatou veterans critical of French decree

Radio Australia

The Moruroa e tatou veterans group in French Polynesia says a decree, which the French government says loosens the compensation criteria for victims of nuclear weapons testing is inadequate. It says the changes are minimal and are merely election related. The group says the legislation extends the eligible fall out zone to include Tahiti, but claims are restricted to effects measured during five months in 1974. However, France carried nuclear testing on the Mururoa and Fangataufa atolls between 1966 and 1996. In February last year the French Defence Ministry admitted it's possible the Mururoa Atoll could cave in because it has been sapped by the underground tests.

Presenter: Geraldine Coutts 

Speaker:Roland Oldham, leader of the Moruroa e tatou veterans

OLDHAM: Because we have been waiting for more than 45 years for justice and I would like to be recognised by the French government and until today, it's still not kind of drop by drop sort of thing and especially before the elections, so that's why to us it's not the solution. I mean the French government have to be honest with us, had to recognise what had been done in this country, had to carry on the responsibility about the health program of the people and about the environment problem. Because this is just some kind of a job, one you're saying that these fatalities taken into account about the zone. I mean the document that we have from the French Ministry, every island of French Polynesia had had fall out from the atmospheric test, so why is it only Tahiti, and then that's the first point. So we are not moving forward. This is only some kind of it is some kind of common action to the manipulation of the mass people, you know. They made it last year, France make a big declaration to the world that compensation will be paid to every victim. I mean one year later, just about nobody had compensation, nobody mentioned had compensation. The fine we'd submit to this committee all have been turned down for some reason. So we are not happy with what the announcements Sarkozy is making, because to us it's not moving forward. They have to be honest about do they want to compensate or not the people of French Polynesia.

COUTTS: Well, Sarkozy has thrown his hat in the ring, he has announced his intention to run in the upcoming elections in France. So do you think that this is tokenism because of that, including Tahiti, but restricting it to five months in 1974, but the tests were 1966 and 1996?

OLDHAM: Pardon, what was the question?

COUTTS: Is it tokenism with the elections coming up?

OLDHAM: Oh, I mean that's for sure. I mean he had made promises. He had five years presidency and he has promised to come to Tahiti, but he had postponed all the time and he'd been trying to escape about the real problem here in Tahiti. There's probably some problem about the inscription of Polynesia on the list of countries to be decolonised, it is probably the problem a big issue on nuclear and in avoiding all this sort of issues. And strangely, two months before or two or three months before election and he's promised us things, but no we are not down about that, but he's for sure, because of the election, probably trying to get some voices in the election the president from the Polynesian people.

COUTTS: How many people, victims does Mururoa e tatou claim have been affected by the French nuclear testing programs on Mururoa and Fangataufa?

OLDHAM: Well, it's of people, it's really hard to know, because through many years to 66 to now, a lot of people have died and a lot of dead of the people in those days are not we don't have clear diagnostics of what they died of and.

COUTTS: Well, what's the best guesstimate then?

OLDHAM: What's the best what?

COUTTS: Guess as to how many people are still alive and affected?

OLDHAM: This is also is mostly a kind of cancer, sort often. In some of those islands, there was no doctors and once one died it just died, but most of those people that have died are also islands just next to Mururoa and about 100 kilometres from Mururoa. Today we can tell that some of those people that dying today, they have leukaemia maybe or they had thyroid, but that's today. But 20 years ago or more than that in these island there was no doctor and the real doctor that they have in this island was a doctor from military doctor and the difficulty that we have all these files have been hidden, because considered by the Ministry of Defence and Secretary of Defence and until today, we cannot we don't have access to these files for the victims, so it's very hard for the victims to prove in front of tribunal or court that there is a scientific link between this cancer and the nuclear test. So one of the solutions is to completely free the defence archives, the military archives and then so and then giving access to the victim to consult with these archives, because all the evidence are in those archives.

COUTTS: What I was really driving at is if we know how many people have been affected, then we know how many people aren't getting the compensation that they require?

OLDHAM: Well right now, about a few hundred files have been sent to the Ministry of Defence and none of them have and these people have died, some of them have died or some are still alive. They have two or three kind of cancer and there is a lot of how do you call it. There's a lot of little things we find and there's a lot of very intelligent calculation that made then we cannot tell you or your cancer is not due to the nuclear test. I mean it's very frustrating for the people here and the worst thing of all that is that people are dying, dying of more cancer and dying especially in the islands. I've been visiting one of the islands through the year and in one family you can get seven cases of cancer onto three generations, the grandfather and the parent and the children and that's a lot in one family, but nothing is being done. It seems to me that the strategy of the French government is to delay, delay as much as they can and then because the amount of ten years goes like this. I mean we'll be much survivor, I mean people that have worked on Mururoa will survive. I mean they will all be dead and that's what makes me feel very bad about the strategy of the French government.

COUTTS: Well just very quickly Mr Oldham, because we're just about out of time. A study of the pollution caused is expected to be released in June this year. Have you got any forward thinking or has any of it been leaked as to what the results are and I guess what I'm asking is will that give you more clout to push your compensation claim?

OLDHAM: Yeah, it all depends who is doing this study. If this study needs doing under the control of the French military, we won't have access to all the files. I mean Mururoa, for example, is impossible to go there unless you get a special authorisation by the Ministry of Defence and you can only go to the place that they tell you you can go and not other places. But the fact is that Mururoa is in a very bad state at the moment, because even one of the military have announced two years ago or one year ago that Mururoa is about to collapse and there is fears of tsunami to happen after this collapse if Mururoa collapse and it's hard for us to imagine all the leaking of radioactive material that is in the soil of Mururoa. But that will be a real catastrophe that will affect the food chain and fish and all this sort of thing. So it's very serious matter.