French Polynesia’s opposition and nuclear test veterans organisation will boycott talks in Paris next month on the legacy of French testing.
The high-level roundtable was proposed in March in response to an outrcry over a study which alleged France had misled the public about the seriousness of fallout after a 1974 atmospheric blast at Moruroa.
Territory President Édouard Fritch said this was the first time the French president had invited French Polynesia for face-to-face talks on the issue.
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“I told him that I intended to lead a delegation of 20 to 30 people there because I want all the country’s forces to be able to express themselves, in their political and societal diversity,” he told the French Polynesian assembly last week.
“The state has a duty of truth and justice towards the Polynesians.”
But the leader of the pro-independence Tavini Huiraatira, Oscar Temaru, said his side would only join if the United Nations was present as an arbiter.
Temaru said that after 60 years of lies on the part of the French state, it could not be trusted.
More than ‘closed-door’ interview
“It will take a lot more than a closed-door interview here in Tahiti, or even a ‘high-level round table’ organised in the hushed and soundproofed offices in Paris, without witnesses,” wrote the pro-independence leader in a statement.
He said that for 50 years France had used any means to claim its tests were clean, and like other test opponents, he was personally denigrated and humiliated.
“Our people have a right to the full truth about the health consequences, genetic, environmental and societal of these crimes perpetrated during 30 years on its lands,” Temaru added.
The Mororua e Tatou veterans organisation said discussions can only start once the French state had paid compensation for its errors.
Fritch, however, conceded that it was not easy to reverse 60 years of propaganda, denials, intimidation and arrogance, but added: “This round table is not an end in itself. This is a historic milestone.”
Between 1966 and 1996, France carried out 193 nuclear weapons tests in French Polynesia and until a decade ago, France claimed its tests were clean and caused no harm to humans.
Limited compensation has been paid out on the basis of national solidarity with the victims, not because the French state recognises any liability.
The test sites of Moruroa and Fangataufa atolls remain excised from French Polynesia and are French no-go zones.
This article is republished under a community partnership agreement with RNZ.