Former workers and widows of Morurua workers failed in their bid for compensation from the effects of nuclear testing from the French government.
The industrial relations tribunal in Papeete found against the eight cases, although one family has received NZD $18 273 for each of three children of a deceased local veteran.
Three former workers who today suffer blood cancers from what they say are the effects of French nuclear testing took the case to French Polynesia’s industrial relations tribunal. The widows of five workers who have died also took part in the action against France. The former workers and widows are seeking compensation for suffering from fall-out-related illnesses.
Moruroa e tatou, an association representing former workers, has been working on the case for eight years, as the first step as others suffering from the consequences of nuclear testing also want compensation.
Morurua e tatou coordinator John Doom says while the judge hearing the case was sympathetic, a favourable verdict could not be reached because of out of date laws. The laws detailing which illnesses were covered by the legislation had not been updated since 1967 and so the judge could not legally accept the claims.
“In France 18 workers have been awarded big money, but I don’t know why our laws aren’t up-to-date. It is not the fault of Oscar Temaru (current president) but of Gaston Flosse,” says John Doom. Gaston Flosse was president for nearly 20 years.
“I am not happy at all. Nobody understands why this has happened. [However] the door is not really closed as we have been allowed to go inside,” he added.
The association will continue to work on their campaign for justice for the Muroroa workers.
Church leaders joined members and supporters for a two hour rally and prayer vigil before entering the court.
New Zealand overseas aid agency Christian World Service has long campaigned for justice for the sick workers. National director Pauline McKay expressed the organisations extreme disappointment.
“The workers of Moruroa and Fangataufa atolls have already waited too long for compensation. It is a waiting game. If the French government hold out for long enough the claimants will die and they will not have to pay. One has to wonder if the colonial government deliberately planned for this.”
Although France stopped tests in 1996 after 30 years of international pressure, the health and environmental consequences continue to be disastrous, Doom says. French Polynesian women have the highest rate of thyroid cancer in the world, and Moruroa and Fangataufa atolls will remain barren and contaminated for years.
26 June 2009