|PACNEWS – 04:35 am GMT+12, 01/03/2021, Fiji|
The deputy Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat says the United States of America and other global powers can do more to address the legacy of their nuclear test programmes in the Pacific.
Speaking on Fiji Television (Fiji TV) this morning alongside USP Marshall Islands Student Association President Wayne Kijner, Dr Filimon Manoni was asked about whether the global powers (UK, France and the U.S) who conducted hundreds of nuclear tests affecting all the sub-regions of the Pacific had done enough to address the impacts of those testing programmes from 1942 to 1996.
“They could do more in terms of the legacy of these nuclear testing programmes. There is some work done bilaterally at the sites of the tests, but I think as a region or in the regional context, more work is needed to address this as a regional issue rather than an issue specific to the testing sites,” he told Breakfast show presenters Mavis Gaunavou Koroiuli and TaiTusi John.
Dr Manoni and Forum Secretary General Dame Meg Taylor as well as RMI-Fiji Ambassador Albon Ishoda are joining special events at the USP Japan-Pacific ICT centre today, as the Marshall Islands marks a national holiday and Nuclear Remembrance Day for victims and survivors of nuclear testing programmes. 01 March is a significant date, as it marks the day in 1946 when the Castle Bravo test — the world’s largest nuclear test, was run by the U.S in the Marshall Islands.
For the Marshall Islands student body President, his fellow Marshallese continue to live with the fallout and the impact of that testing programme on their environment and their people. Previous student leaders launched the awareness action and on campus march several years ago to ensure the legacy of the nuclear testing programmes are not forgotten. They invite the Forum to be part of the event, to spread the awareness amongst other Pacific nations.
“We feel that this issue is not yet resolved. Many of the people that were displaced from their homes and home islands are still away, they cannot return to their home islands due to radioactive contamination,” said Kijner. He said the Runit Dome housing nuclear waste and toxic contamination, is likely to be destroyed by rising sea levels and climate change weather erosion.
The connection with climate change brought the Pacific nuclear legacy back into the spotlight for Forum Leaders at their Tuvalu meeting in 2019. They called for action, and not just addressing the nuclear legacy, but ensuring the world is free of nuclear weapons.
The Forum is keen to make sure the work around remembrance day helps to meet that promise. Dr Manoni said the the first ministerial meeting of the Rarotonga Treaty was convened late last year, highlighting “the remaining work that needs to be done–the unfinished work on the nuclear legacy testing issues that need the support of our leaders, not only at the regional level, but I think internationally, as well.”
Later in 2021, a review of the global Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, may provide a milestone for the world. All the nuclear powers have ratified the treaty, which includes an Article 6 obligation to eliminate nuclear weapons.
“We want to share our stories to make sure that this never happens again. We in the Pacific are vulnerable to climate change. And with all these contaminations all over the place from the history of testing in the Pacific, we want to make sure that we can move forward safely and not repeat the same thing,” says Wayne Kijner.
“I think the message to nuclear weapons states, nuclear powers, is to work on your obligations under international agreements, towards the cessation of nuclear weapons, and towards a world that is free of nuclear weapons. That is safe for all of our future generations,” added Dr Manoni.