History of Polynesia|
Date: Thu, 21 Sep 1995 04:15:34 GMT
Sender: Activists Mailing List <ACTIV-L@MIZZOU1.missouri.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
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
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.
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