Macron Promises Transparency on Nuclear Tests in French Polynesia
On his first official visit to French Polynesia, French President Emmanuel Macron vowed transparency and reforms to compensation procedures as he stopped to speak with a group of protesters on Tuesday.
Macron, who arrived on Saturday, has already indicated that he will confront the legacy of French testing in the South Pacific islands, which is still a source of hostility and is seen as proof of racist colonial attitudes that ignored the lives of people.
Residents of the huge archipelago of over 100 islands halfway between Mexico and Australia are hoping Macron apologizes and promises compensation for radiation sufferers.
“I can’t ask you to believe me when you’ve been lied to for so long and haven’t been given all the facts,” Macron told a group of about 50 protestors on Moorea.
“I believe that confidence can be established by disclosing everything, sharing everything, and being a lot more transparent, which we haven’t done so far,” he continued.
Islanders urged immediate action, according to Lena Lenormand, vice president of the 193 association, which is called after the number of tests conducted in the semi-autonomous region.
“We can’t help but think you’re towards the end of your tenure, so words are one thing, but what will be done in practice after that?” Macron was informed by her.
“There are pressing needs, and people are suffering. We’re asking you to accept responsibility for what the state did to these Polynesian people, as well as an apology and genuine support.”
Macron responded by saying he was “committed to altering things” when it came to compensation.
“I’ve heard you, and I’ve heard what you’re asking of me, and you’ll see what I have to say.”
Later, in a speech, the president was anticipated to address the problem.
Macron will be “encouraging many concrete steps” regarding the legacy of nuclear tests, including the opening of state archives and individual compensation, according to a presidential official who did not want to be identified at the start of the trip.
The tests took place between 1966 and 1996, during which time France was developing nuclear weapons.
Officials rejected any cover-up of radiation exposure earlier this month after the French investigative website Disclose claimed in March, citing declassified French military papers, that the impact of the fallout was considerably more pervasive than authorities had acknowledged.
Since the testing ceased in 1996, just 63 Polynesian citizens have been compensated for radiation exposure, according to Disclose, despite estimates of more nearly 100,000. Brief News from Washington Newsday.