By Jean-Pierre Viatge in Pape’ete
Fifteen days after Tahiti Nui’s anti-nuclear protest on July 2, the Tavini Huiraatira party has organised a march Mā’ohi Lives Matter this weekend with support from the Mā’ohi Protestant Church, Association 193 and Moruroa e Tatou.
Former territorial president of Tahiti and pro-independence leader Oscar Temaru has called for an “unprecedented mobilisation” of the population.
It was after the unrest caused by the publication of the book Toxic (Toxique) last March that the anti-nuclear protest was set for July 17.
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The event on Saturday (Tahiti time) is also being mirrored in Auckland at AUT University on Sunday in a Mai te Paura Ātōmī i te Tiāmara’a (From Bomb contamination to self determination) rally being organised by Les Tahitiens de NZ.
The date was chosen to mark the controversial French atmospheric nuclear test Centaur on 17 July 1974.
This was a failed test, complicated by a dreadful weather forecast, that would have blown the radioactive cloud across French Polynesia to the main island of Tahiti Nui.
According to estimates given by the journalist authors of the book Toxic, this would have exposed up to 110,000 Polynesians to radioactive fallout.
Famous JFK speech
In the days running up to the protest, it is by the historic words extracted from the famous John Fitzgerald Kennedy speech that Oscar Temaru wanted to attract popular support: “Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country.”
“It is a call for a general mobilisation,” Temaru explained.
“I can’t tell how many we will be. But I can tell you that there will be thousands of people.”
And Temaru, leader of the Tavini, added: “I will be satisfied only if we have 50,000 people.”
The bar is set very high.
Fifteen days after the July 2 march that marked this year’s 55th anniversary of the first nuclear test, and a week before the official visit of President Emmanuel Macron to French Polynesia, the collective called Fait Nucléaire en Polynésie (Nuclear Fact in French Polynesia) wanted to strike hard.
At the beginning of the month, the Moruroa e Tatou association managed to gather between 2000 to 3000 protesters in Pape’ete, thanks largely to the support of the l’Église Protestante Mā’ohi (Mā’ohi Protestant Church), which provided most of the protesters.
If its representatives were not at the press conference given last Tuesday at the Tavini headquarters to promote the protest of July 17, the religious organisation is still part of the organising collective.
Richard Tuheiava tried to explain the absence of the church leaders by asking the press: “You seem to doubt the involvement of the Mā’ohi Protestant Church? Don’t worry…”
Grievances and complaints
Two points of gathering are planned for Saturday morning from 6am in Tahiti. One is the carpark of the former Mamao hospital, for protesters coming from the east coast, and the other, the Tipaerui sports stadium for those coming from the west coast.
The two marches for the protest called Mā’ohi Lives Matter will start walking at 9am toward the main place of Tarahoi which will be the focal point for the event.
There a speech is planned to remind the objective of the protest. At midday after one minute silence in homage to the sick and former Polynesian veterans who died due to the nuclear tests, a section will be dedicated to a statement by victims who survived.
Video recordings made for this occasion will be shown on a big screen to carry the message of the sick Polynesians and international sympathisers who could not physically make it to the protest.
Among them will be Hilda Lini, sister of the late Walter Lini, the father of independence of Vanuatu.
Some diplomats from the Pacific are also on the card, recognised by the United Nations along with representatives of non-government organisations which sit at the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC).
“Partners from well-known Pacific institutions, partners of the UN and active individuals in the Pacific region who know the fight of the Tavini on the nuclear issues,” added Michel Villar, foreign affairs councillor for the pro-independence party.
Crime against humanity lawsuit
The other main issue for this protest on Saturday –- and not the least –- is tied to the lawsuit alleging a crime against humanity pressed by independent Polynesians before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague, an action that has now stalled.
Since last March, anti-nuclear activists have set up a network of recommendations for those recognised as victims and compensated to file a complaint in The Hague over the shortcomings of the the so-called Morin Law and community meetings have since been organised.
These complaints are likely to reinforce the statement made by Oscar Temaru before the ICJ in October 2018, as explained by Michel Villar last March.
“People have been trained to take statements. It’s already running full speed,” said Temaru.
“I am very satisfied with the last meetings that we have had.”
On Saturday, a host of complaints would help the pro-independence and anti-nuclear causes.
At least to boost communication of their story of suffering on the international stage.
- France conducted 193 nuclear tests from 1966 to 1996 at Moruroa and Fangataufa atolls in French Polynesia, including 41 atmospheric tests until 1974 that exposed the local population, site workers and French soldiers to high levels of radiation.
Translated for Asia Pacific Report by Ena Manuireva, one of the organisers of the Mai te Paura Ātōmī i te Tiāmara’a (From Bomb contamination to self determination) rally at WF603, Auckland University of Technology at 12noon on Sunday, July 18.