French President Emmanuel Macron pledged transparency on decades of nuclear testing in French Polynesia and changes to compensation procedures on Tuesday when he stopped to speak to a group of protesters on his first official trip to the territory.
Macron, who began his visit on Saturday, previously said he would address the legacy of French testing in the South Pacific islands, which remains a source of deep resentment and is seen as evidence of racist colonial attitudes that despise the life of the inhabitants.
Residents of the sprawling archipelago of more than 100 islands located halfway between Mexico and Australia hope Macron apologizes and announces compensation for radiation victims.
“I cannot ask you to trust me when you have been lied to for so long by not receiving all the information,” Macron told a group of around 50 protesters on the island of Moorea.
“I think we have to build trust, by saying everything, by sharing everything, by being much more transparent, and it is true that we have not done so until now,” he said. added.
Lena Lenormand, vice-president of association 193, which owes its name to the number of tests carried out in the semi-autonomous territory, said the islanders want urgent action.
“We can’t help but think that you’re at the end of your term, so words are one thing, but after that, what will we do concretely?” She said to Macron.
“There are urgent demands, people who are suffering. We ask you to recognize what the state did to these Polynesians, apologies and real support. “
# photo1In response, Macron said he was “committed to making a difference” when it comes to compensation.
“I heard you, and I heard what you ask me, and you will see my answer. ”
The president was due to address the issue in a speech later.
At the start of the trip, a presidential official who asked to remain anonymous said Macron “will encourage several concrete measures” regarding the legacy of the nuclear tests, with the opening of state archives and individual compensation.
The tests were carried out from 1966 to 1996 while France was developing nuclear weapons.
Authorities denied any cover-up of radiation exposure earlier this month after French investigative site Disclose reported in March that the impact of the fallout was far greater than authorities had recognized, citing declassified French military documents.
Only 63 Polynesian civilians have been compensated for radiation exposure since testing ended in 1996, Disclose said, estimating that more than 100,000 people may have been infected in total, with leukemias, lymphomas and other cancers.
© 2021 AFP