Ladies and gentlemen,
First of all, I would like to thank Japan Gensuikyo for inviting me, as a representative of the Association Moruroa e tatou, to the commemoration of all men and women of Japan who were victims of US nuclear bombings of the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I measure the sufferings of millions of your compatriots who survived these catastrophes.
Ladies and gentlemen,
I bring fraternal greetings from the former Polynesian workers of the French nuclear test sites in the atolls of Moruroa and Fangataufa in French Polynesia in the Pacific.
I am Tanemaruatoa Michel Arakino, born in the Reao atoll, near Moruroa. I worked in the French nuclear test sites of Moruroa and Fangataufa. I served during 17 years as a diver to execute necessary tasks for nuclear tests under the lagoon and for preparing samples for radiation analysis.
I would like to speak about the following four points:
1. How and why I joined the Association Moruroa e tatou;
2. My role within the association;
3. Retracing my experiences in the nuclear testing: before, during, after and today; 4. Finally, the anxiety of the people in my country, the health and psychological state of the population now aware of the actual effects, but who remain silent because of fear of moral, physical and economic retaliation by the influential people in the country.
1. How and why I joined the Association Moruroa e tatou
I joined the Association Moruroa e tatou, after having participated in the first meeting of the former Moruroa workers held on July 4, 2001 by the Follow-up Committee Moruroa et tatou. Two experts in nuclear matters: Mrs. Sue Roff and Mr. Bruno Barriot, were invited to that meeting The speech and explanations of Mrs. Roff about her research on the effects of nuclear fallout on the British veterans totally upset me, because I felt as if I had been diagnosed and betrayed by my employer, who did not give me sufficient information of the post-test effects. As I speak to you, many of my old co-workers are suffering from diverse cancers, but the people in charge in the military sanitation department deny the fact that the origin of these diseases could be the nuclear test fallouts. This is why I joined the Association Mururoa et tatou: to have support for the long march to bring to light the current health state of former test site workers and of my own case.
I assumed responsibilities that made me go regularly to the so-called "hot spots" to make different samplings on land and in the sea for biological controls on Moruroa and Fangataufa atolls and across Polynesia, plus for control of food brought from outside the country. I was in charge of a garden with contaminated earth which we brought from Fangataufa. The biological control department wanted to know what the plants would become like on the contaminated soil. It is probable that while working in this garden or diving in the sea where I collected plankton over ground zero, I swallowed or inhaled radioactive particles. In any case, my superiors did not tell me about the risks that could happen to me.
In a systematic medical check-up, I was found to be positive for the stool test. I was taken to the military hospital Jean-Prince in Papeete for a routine test. Then, since 1994, nothing, no more medical chart. I have not received any results of tests from the military occupational health department. So, you can understand the anxiety I feel and which haunts me till today, because I find myself in utter ignorance of why I received the tests in the military hospital in Tahiti.
2. My role within the association
My role in the Association Moruroa et tatou is to be a living witness of what I have experienced on the nuclear test sites in Moruroa and Fangataufa. I want to know in particular what happened to my health, so that I can do something to prevent the risk of serious diseases, the origin of which I have not yet found out and of which I have not been informed. I also want to be a spokesperson for all former test site workers who are suffering in silence, because of the fear of sanctions and retaliation and of receiving blame such as: "you have eaten from the same pan and today you spit in the soup".
3. My experiences in nuclear tests: before, during,after and today
My first contact with the nuclear tests was in 1964 on Reao atoll in the Tuamotu islands where I was born. In 1964, the Foreign Legion established a base camp on my island to build a facility for meteorological observation and forecast. It was also a question of following the direction of atomic clouds after aerial shots.
In July 1966, all the population of the atoll was gathered in the military base on the island and was locked up in an atomic shelter. For three days, we were not allowed to go out of the shelter. There were people in "hot" clothing and the military as guards at every exit.
When we got out after three days, I noticed that something had changed in the vegetation: the coconut tree leaves had turned yellow and a few days later, the fruit fell.
As I look back today, I recall that when I was an adolescent, some people in Reao were complaining about itching and other problems. I had some doubts then and these doubts have not gone even now.
4. My last question is the following:
I served my homeland faithfully but hasn't she deviated from her moral values and in respect of the human rights she herself demands? Many Polynesians who worked in Moruroa do not dare to speak about their health problems: they are afraid of retaliation in their work, particularly those who hold posts in the territorial administration. Others are afraid of losing their pensions. You must also know that most former workers are not rich and many of them have difficulty in making a living for their families. We know that France has decided to allocate a big amount of money to the Polynesian government to compensate for the cessation of nuclear testing. But you should know that no part of this money is used for the health follow-up of former workers who have health problems or for the families whose fathers were former workers of Moruroa and are now deceased.
Ladies and gentlemen,
We need your solidarity in our pursuit of truth and justice for the nuclear test victims of Moruroa and Fangataufa.
I thank you for your attention. IA ORA NA.