By Rowena Acraman
The injustice and displacement experienced by island nations, such as the Marshall Islands, due to their involvement in nuclear testing during the 1950s continues to impact future generations, highlighting a distressing and recurring issue.
The University of the South Pacific student (USP), Christy Kabua from the Marshall Islands, expressed her concerns for the future of her children during the international day dedicated to nuclear waste awareness at the Pacific Islands Forum secretariat on Tuesday this week.
She discussed the devastation that occurred in the atolls due to nuclear testing, emphasizing how this served as a testing ground. Kabua stated that her children’s future would be different, as she would need to educate them about the challenges her people faced and the resulting implications for their beloved island home.
“I am wondering what my future will be like, I would not want my future kids to keep asking me what is happening. I will be their teacher and I will tell them, it’s the “nuclear”.
Kabua, also the President of the Marshall Islands Student Association (MISA) at USP, highlighted that the association organizes solidarity marches on campus to raise awareness against nuclear testing, with her active participation.
Tamatoa Tepuhiarii, a PhD student and climate activist from Maohi Nui (French Polynesia), participated in the event to voice his concerns about nuclear testing.
When asked about his thoughts on the Fukushima waste release, he pointed out the interconnectedness of nuclear testing and nuclear waste dumping into the ocean.
“Nuclear testing and nuclear waste dumping into the ocean are related right. We cannot remember or celebrate one without recognising the other or letting people know what is happening,” he stated.
Tepuhiarri emphasized the significance of both issues and the importance of educating people on how to prevent such injustices related to nuclear testing. He mentioned a challenge in Maohi is inadequate education in these areas hinders advocacy efforts.
“We are not educated on this topic back at home and it is something we need to catch up on as young people. This is a part of our history and people are dying from the after effect of nuclear testings without being acknowledged. How do we envision our future if we do not take into account the consequences of the issue that we are affected by,” he concluded.
Henry Puna, Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat (PIFS), attended the commemoration and expressed his personal feelings regarding the issues raised for future generations.
“I could feel the energy and emotion in the room and for a lot of reasons, I am sure. Given the timing of last week’s event of the Fukushima release but also commemorating a sad milestone brings out the emotions in us. The Rarotonga is our safeguard for the future,” he said.
Puna further underscored that injustices are evident on various levels, emphasizing the need to correct the situation in the region.
“The injustices have got to be corrected. Gone are the days we are dumping ground for other people’s mess. It’s time we spoke out, correct it and make sure it does not happen again,” he asserted.