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Nuclear Free & Independent Pacific Day, Bikini Day

STOP Treating Indigenous Pacific Peoples With Contempt!

Media release from the Pacific Concerns Resource Centre on Nuclear Free and Independent Pacific Day (or Bikini Day)

March 1st each year is observed by the Nuclear Free and Independent Pacific (NFIP) Movement as NFIP Day, to remind Pacific peoples and the world, of the arrogant colonial legacy which inflicted enormous harm and destruction on indigenous peoples of the Pacific.

Fifty-two years ago, on March 1 1954, the world's most powerful hydrogen bomb was detonated by the United States on Bikini atoll, one of 29 coral atolls in the Marshall Islands. Codenamed "Bravo" the blast was one thousand times more powerful than the bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima in 1945.

2006 also marks the 60th year when the United States first conducted its atomic testing program in the Pacific, from 1946 to 1958. In total, 67 nuclear tests were conducted in the Marshall Islands, 24 on Bikini atoll and 43 tests on Enewetak island. These tests contaminated the people of Enwetak, Rongelap. Utrik and other nearby atolls.

What the US military had assured then as only "temporary" evacuation from Bikini to make way for nuclear testing for "the good of mankind and to end all wars" developed into a full fledged nuclear legacy, the impact of which lives on today. A legacy fraught with racism and violence to human beings and their environment.

The Bikini legacy is a continuous reminder of the horrors of US nuclear testing which had justified and allowed the uprooting of indigenous people from their lands and lifestyles, destroying forever their environments and ecosystems, leaving the environment unsafe for human habitation and livelihood.

It has brought about and continues to cause countless suffering with its associated list of unknown illnesses, premature deaths and above all, the continued disregard of the dignity and human rights of the indigenous peoples of the Marshall islands. The US continues to exploit the islands for military bases and testing sites including the Ronald Regan Ballistic Missile Defense site on Kwajalein atoll, the deprivation of the lands of the Chamorro people of Guam and the Kanaka-maoli people of Hawaii, to make way for military bases and training grounds. As long as these US military bases exist, the safety and security of Pacific peoples remain at grave risk.

NFIP Day also serves to remind the world of the atrocities caused by other nuclear powers in the Pacific. Spanning a period of 30 years between 1966 to 1996, France detonated 193 nuclear tests on Moruroa and Fangataufa atolls in French Polynesia, 46 atmospheric and 147 underground tests.

A Commission of Inquiry formed in July 2005 by the French Polynesia Territorial Assembly to investigate the consequences of the French nuclear testing in Polynesia, showed proof that the 46 aerial tests which took place from 1966 to 1974 irradiated the inhabited archipelagos of Polynesia, contrary to what French military authorities continue to claim as "harmless" and "clean" tests. Former test site workers have formed the Association of Moruroa e Tatou to conduct research on their health, and to claim for compensation and justice from the French government for its members and their families.

The British nuclear program accounted for a total of 9 nuclear tests on Malden Island and Christmas Island between 1957 and 1958, together with 25 US tests on Christmas Island in 1962.

Fifty years on, about 300 Fijian soldiers that took part in the UK tests on Christmas Island and their families, have formed the Fiji Nuclear Test Veterans to fight for justice and claim relief from the British government, for illnesses suffered as a result of exposure to radiation through food and water consumed on the island during the tests. These illnesses are similar to those suffered by the Marshall Islanders, the former test site workers of French Polynesia and the bomb victims (Hibakusha) of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, including various forms of cancer such as thyroid, blood and prostrate.

Although the tests have stopped, the struggle continues. The trans-shipment of hazardous nuclear wastes through the Pacific by the shipping states including Japan, the US, Australia and France, endangers the lives and ecosystems of the Pacific in the likelihood of an accident at sea.

NFIP Day 2006 comes at a time when the world is challenged by even more imminent threats of violent conflicts and wars and the likely consequences these pose to the Pacific and friends across the region. These include the on-going US-led war in Iraq and its consequent military recruitment from Pacific countries, the declared "state of emergency" in the Philippines and the arrest of peace activists, the death of a Marshallese worker on the Kwajalein test site, the arrest of activists in West Papua and the on-going slaughter of the people by the Indonesian military.

On this day, members of the Nuclear Free and Independent Pacific movement call on nuclear powers - the United States, France and Britain and the shipping nations like Australia and Japan to stop treating the people of the Pacific with contempt, sincerely listen to their concerns and take action to redress the injustices inflicted upon them.

For more information please contact Marie Pierre Hazera or Ema Tagicakibau of the Peace and Disarmament Desk email: etag at pcrc.org.fj; or mphazera at pcrc.org.fj

Pacific Concerns Resource Centre is the Secretariat of the Nuclear Free and Independent Pacific Movement. It is registered in the Fiji Islands under the Charitable Trusts Act. It is a Non-Governmental Organisation in General Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations.

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