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Fiji Nuclear Test Veteran To Attend World Event

29 July, 2002

Fiji Nuclear Test Veteran To Attend World Event

Fiji will be represented at the World Conference against Atomic and Hydrogen Bombs to be held in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan from 2 - 9 August, 2002.

Mr Tekoti Rotan, the secretary of the Fiji Nuclear Test Veterans Association (FNTVA), will be a keynote speaker at the International Meeting, which is expected to attract over 1000 international participants and up to 7,000 Japanese participants.

The conference brings together peace and human rights activists, anti-nuclear groups, nuclear bomb survivors and others struggling for a nuclear-free world, to work in solidarity towards a peaceful and promising world without the threat of nuclear weapons. It is held annually to commemorate the millions of lives lost during the US bombing of Hiroshima on 2 August and Nagasaki on 6 August, 1945 which ended the Second World War following Japan's surrender.

The Fijian nuclear test veterans are survivors of the original 300 Fijian soldiers and navy personnel that served in the British nuclear test program on Christmas and Malden Islands (Kiribati), in the late 1950s.

The organisers of the event, the Japan Council Against Hydrogen and Atomic bombs, sent a delegation to Fiji in May this year to assist the former test veterans in compiling medical evidence necessary for their claims for compensation from the British Government. Dr Saito, who is an expert on radiation-related diseases, provided free medical check ups during the visit for the veterans and their families.

Dr Saito is expected to hand over a report soon on the basis of his findings to verify the most commonly suffered diseases found to be consistent to initial exposure to radiation.

According to the Pacific Concerns Resource Centre (PCRC), which has been instrumental in pushing the plight of the Fiji nuclear test veterans to the international arena since 1999, the struggle by the veterans is gathering momentum.

Early this year one of their members was invited to an international meeting of former world nuclear test site workers in France, and last week he was in Tahiti to address former test site workers involved in the French nuclear tests on Moruroa and Fangataufa Atolls. The veterans' trips have been fully funded by inviting organisers.

Early this month, Mervyn Fudge of the UK legal firm of Wilmott & Clarke, which specialises in multi-party actions, informed PCRC that their law firm had been granted legal aid to investigate, represent and possibly bring a claim against the British Ministry of Defence in relation to exposure to radiation caused by the atomic tests of the 1950s, on behalf of the UK and New Zealand veterans. They wrote that they were anxious to identify all possible claimants against the Ministry of Defence.

PCRC's Ema Tagicakibau stated that Mr Fudge was considering the possibility of visiting the Fiji veterans later this year as soon as enough information was gathered on the current status of the plight of the veterans.

"We realise that time is not on the old veterans side, with most requiring constant medical attention which they can ill afford," said Ms Tagicakibau, who will also be attending the World Conference in Japan. "And a good beginning would be to have the British Government acknowledge its moral responsibility in accordance with the principles of good governance and accountability that it preaches."

"We have Fijians suffering here, who went to Christmas Island not knowing the full impact of their participation. They were young, eager and full of hope, just like our current British army hopefuls. The military is a secretive institution, and I hope that our young Fijians understand the consequences of military service. Christmas Island should be a lesson for all," she said.

For further information contact Ema Tagicakibau or Hannah Harborow

at PCRC on (679) 3304 649.


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