Report – By Rose Troup Buchanan
The French Polynesia Assembly is preparing to ask President Francois Holland’s government for nearly a billion dollars in compensation for damage caused to the islands by nuclear weapons tests.
Conservative anti-independence Tahoera’a Huiraatira party committee has apparently taken issue with the French testing regime that saw 210 nuclear tests conducted from 1966 to 1996 off secluded atolls in the South Pacific.
The committee, which is acting independently of Polynesian President Edouard Fritch, is asking for US$930 million for environmental damage, according to daily Polynesian newspaper La Depeche de Tahiti.
In addition, the proposed resolution also seeks an additional $132 million for the continued occupation of the Fangataufa and Moruroa atolls.
France detonated its first thermonuclear weapon off the Fangataufa atoll in 1968, after ruling out other locations – such as the Sahara – and the decision was broadly accepted by the Polynesian public at the time.
Last year declassified French Defence documents exposed that the islands had been hit with far more radiation than previously supposed.
Tahiti – the most populated island – was exposed to 500 times more radiation than recommended.
In 2006, a French medical body found the increase of cancer on the islands were caused by nuclear testing. The French government only acknowledged veterans and survivors in 2010 that they would be legible for compensation – but warned the process would be long and complex thanks to the distribution of the islands.
Environmentally, the islands appear to have been badly affected by the testing. However, for years many scientists and researchers were refused entry to the islands and to this day much of the data on the proliferation of waste remains incomplete or unavailable.
In 1998, one report indicated that more than 3200 tonnes of various types of radioactive waste had been poured into the Pacific Ocean, sinking to depths of 1000 metres off the coast of Moruroa.
Marcel Tuihani, a protégé of the founder of the anti-independence Tahoera’a party, Gaston Flosse, is leading the claim.
On Friday, Flosse was invited by the chairman of the meeting to work for the commission as a “qualified expert”.
The politician, who is known in local media as the “Old Lion”, was convicted of corruption in 2006 and given a three-months suspended sentence during which time he neither resigned nor gave up his Polynesian seat in the French Senate. He was reelected to the Senate in 2008.
French Polynesia is an overseas collective of the French Republic.
Source: The Independent