10 Jun 2013

Tahiti nuclear test veterans unhappy with French Socialists

6:24 pm on 10 June 2013

There is disappointment among French Polynesia's nuclear test veterans that last year's change of government in France didn't bring about the promised review of the compensation law.

Until three years ago, Paris claimed its weapons tests were clean, but then admitted that some veterans may have suffered health problems because of exposure to radiation.

The head of the Moruroa e tatou veterans' group, Roland Oldham told Walter Zweifel the Socialists have deceived them.

ROLAND OLDHAM: A lot of our members have voted for the Socialist Party because of these promises of the change of the 'loi morale' improving facility to get compensations. But the reality is completely different. The reality is that when we got to the last commission of compensation we've been simply told by the Minister of Defence... Mr Drian simply told us that the 'loi morale' is perfect and there is nothing to change about it, and we're not going to talk about the revision of this 'Loi Morin'. It's a big disappointment. We've always been very sceptical about politicians and abbot how they do promises when they are campaigning and then they change their position after.

WALTER ZWEIFEL: Have you had a chance to go back to the Socialist Party or the minister concerned and confront him about this change of position?

RO: No. Apparently, I heard that they're going to listen to our demands. They're going to examine it there again from the first experience. I don't have much trust. We have also [told] them whether it is good for them to come here in French Polynesia and to talk to all the different people here, to talk to the victims, to talk to the politicians, maybe to go to the church, [find out] how the Polynesian people feel about this ... But they didn't do that. They just wanted us to send something in writing. To me, I don't have much belief that things will change much.

WZ: Have you had any support from the governments in French Polynesia, the political class here, in trying to raise this matter, given that it is something that affects people across party lines?

RO: As I say, the position of politicians here is very hard to explain because on one side they're still asking money from France. And even some have continued to say or think that the era of nuclear testing was a good era for Polynesia because it brought a lot of money. Which means that somewhere is a national morality in our own people - the most important thing is money. And today the situation is still a bit the same. Whatever our government, whatever our politician is, people are still under pressure from the French government because a lot of things here, we still depend, for our administration and many other things, we still depend on France. So it's very difficult for them to take a strong stand, a serious, powerful stand, against France for all the damage that the nuclear bombs has done to the health of our people and to the environment, because France is still blackmailing them - 'If you want money for this project you better talk differently'. So I think it's one of the big problems with our politicians here.

WZ: How do you know about this apparent link, the quote, blackmail, that France has on the political class here to push this nuclear issue. What's the evidence or the testimony that you have that this is the case?

RO: For example, when we talk about one special person - Gaston Flosse - he has supported nuclear tests all his time since the moment he's been president, even today. And also we have brought a lot of proof, some scientists have helped us. We still talk about the money, the good, that France has brought to this country through the money they have brought in. So they talk freely that way. And on the other hand, some of them even talk freely about the fact, how can we get money from France if we keep on standing against nuclear tests? This is the free speech of a lot of politicians in this country. It's not a secret that Gaston Flosse, for example, has been supported by the French government because of his position of supporting the french nuclear tests here in this country. On the other hand, you have the independence party being against nuclear tests and you can see sometimes where it is difficult. In the time when Gaston Flosse was president, money flowed into Tahiti like rain, like heavy rain. And Gaston Flosse had all the money to do all the things that he wanted. And today when I talk about blackmailing it's very clear. I remember one of the ministers, when the Independence Party came to power, has just after the election - Mrs Girardin - she said very clearly that now the tap for the money will be closed down. So this sort of attitude to me, when we talk about democracy, when we talk about how human rights, is not acceptable.