[Documents menu]History of Polynesia
Date: Thu, 21 Sep 1995 04:15:34 GMT
Sender: Activists Mailing List <ACTIV-L@MIZZOU1.missouri.edu>
From: EUGENE@zodiac.rutgers.edu
Subject: French tests spur independence movement

from An Phoblacht/Republican News
news and views of Sinn Fein, the Irish Republican movement
Sept. 15, 1995

French tests galvanise freedom movement

From An Phoblacht/Republican News
15 September 1995.

WHEN THE FRENCH GOVERNMENT finally sits down to count the cost of their decision to resume nuclear testing in the South Pacific, it is unlikely lost exports of wine will top the list. That position, it seems increasingly likely, will be reserved for Polynesia. With remarkable aplomb, a bumbling Jacques Chirac has managed to forge an unprecedented degree of unity amongst the people of so-called 'French Polynesia', ensuring an irrevocable gap has opened up between the colonial power and its colony of 150 years.

That common sense of purpose was seen in the riots which followed the first French test. They were provoked by attacks on peaceful demonstrators, by colonial police using batons and tear gas. In their aftermath, one Tahitian remarked to reporters of a new-found sense of ''harmony'' in Tahitian society. Another pointed out that the colonial power was simply reaping what it had sowed: ''The French have treated us as rubbish, as rats, and now you see what happens.''

France transferred its nuclear weapons programme to Tahiti in 1965, after the occupants of the previous test site - the Algerian people - sent the colonial power packing.

The introduction of the expensive weapons programme, into a largely rural and self-sufficient region, was promoted as the gateway to progress: with it would come jobs, money and an overnight leap into the First World.

That clearly has not happened. In a recent profile of the Polynesian independence movement in AP/RN, its leader Oscar Temaru explained how the test programme has served merely to increase the region's dependence on France.

Thus, the weapons programme encouraged Polynesians to abandon outlying islands in favour of supposedly lucrative work on Tahiti.

By 1975, the region had lost its economic self-sufficiency and today, it must import over 80% of the food it eats. Unemployment runs at a rate of one-in-four. The decision to resume testing was simply the straw that broke the camel's back.


But one disappointing aspect of the whole affair is the manner in which environmental organisations have studiously avoided identifying with the cause of Polynesian independence. Their concentration on exclusively environmental concerns carries the clear implication that this issue can be divorced from the everyday, political world - that environmental destruction is somehow unrelated to existing global power structures.

That is a dangerous myth. The same global-power system which today threatens the South Pacific, yesterday threatened to consume the world in a nuclear conflict.

The same global-power structure which threatens the existence of the ozone layer, also threatens the continued existence of the world's rainforests. The examples are legion. Environmental destruction is not borne out of a hatred of nature, but results from a political system which has, at its core, a determination to preserve economic privilege.

Tavini Huiraatira - the independence party of which Oscar Temaru is head - see the issues of independence, a redistribution of wealth and an end to nuclear testing as inextricably linked. As one Tahitian, a union organiser, said last week: ''We question the West's notion of progress. We see half the world starving, the rich getting richer and environmental destruction worsening. There are still places where life is not based on money, but on nature. Perhaps we should look there.''

The Polynesian experience ought to go down as a standard example of how to think globally and act locally.

posted in.... IRL-NEWS

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