Pacific Islands Forum Secretary General, Henry Puna Friday delivers heartfelt remarks at the Republic of Marshall Islands (RMI) Nuclear Victims Remembrance Day, emphasising the event’s significance with gratitude and solemn acknowledgment.

“May I firstly extend my sincerest appreciation to the President and the Government of the Republic of the Marshall Islands for the warm invitation to join you here today. I am deeply honoured to be a part of this occasion to mark an issue that remains deeply important to our Blue Pacific Continent.”

Reflecting on past commemorations and the resilience of Marshallese youth, he stated.

“While remembering tragedies of the past, I am always filled with hope and optimism, witnessing your children – the Marshallese youth based in Fiji – bravely leading and honouring their history with pride,” he said.

Puna emphasised solidarity with the Marshallese people in acknowledging the enduring effects of nuclear testing.

“I stand with you on this day to honour and respect the lives of your people – of our people – who bore and continue to bear the permanent and inter-generational illnesses and problems caused by nuclear weapons testing.

“I stand in solidarity with you all to ensure that we never forget those 50 long years of atrocities perpetrated on our Blue Pacific,” said Puna.

He highlighted the Forum’s commitment to addressing nuclear legacy issues.

“The Nuclear testing legacy remains a priority of our Leaders, and the region continues to turn to you, the Marshall Islands, for your stewardship on this critical issue.

“Just three months ago, at their 52nd annual meeting held in the Cook Islands, Forum Leaders reaffirmed commitment to continue support towards bilateral, regional and multilateral action to resolve these outstanding legacy issues.

“As articulated in our 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific Implementation Plan, our Leaders prioritise effective inclusive leadership at the international level on all nuclear issues.

“Together, we will heighten advocacy to urge the global community to address nuclear legacy issues in the Pacific through the Rarotonga Treaty and other mechanisms,” explained Puna.

Puna emphasised the importance of accountability and cooperation with the United States.

“And we must hold our great friends, the U.S, accountable to this.

“If I may be frank, our history is littered with overwhelming foreign disrespect for our Blue Pacific. Clearly, we were used as a testing ground – more like a testing laboratory. And we must ask the question, why was the most beautiful corner of the world, with the most beautiful and peaceful people, chosen for these horrific acts without our informed consent?

“While we have come a long way in mending past grievances, regrettably, the terms of resolving nuclear legacy issues in the Marshall Islands have been inadequate, and therefore remain unfinished,” he said.

SG Puna called for mutual respect and recognition of Pacific nations’ grievances.

“We must overcome any imbalances of respect in our partnership, so that we can determine the true value of what was truly lost all those years ago, when these waters and lands were contaminated.

“But I am hopeful that this issue will not go away, until we are satisfied that we have been heard. And this is why occasions such as this Nuclear Victims Remembrance Day, are critical in our endeavours.

“Although difficult, remembering this history is important to empower generations toward the justice that we continue to seek for the Marshall Islands, for French Polynesia, for Kiribati, and indeed for the whole Blue Pacific Continent,” said Puna.

Puna also reaffirmed his commitment to justice and a nuclear-free Pacific.

“To ensure that we will always remember. More importantly to ensure that justice is done.

“I renew my full commitment to supporting all efforts to ensure that nuclear testing never happens again in our blessed Pacific, and that the light of hope shines brightly upon a safer and more secure tomorrow for all,” SG Puna said.