REMARKS: SG Puna to RMI Nuclear Victims Remembrance Day 2022 event, USP

RMI Nuclear Victims Remembrance Day 2022
Tuesday 1 March 2022, 12pm, Japan ICT

Remarks by PIF Secretary General Henry Puna

The People and Community in Fiji of the Republic of the Marshall Islands,
The President and Members of the Marshall Islands Student Association,
The Commissioner of the National Nuclear Commission, Mr Alson Kelen,
General Secretary of the Pacific Conference of Churches, Reverend James Bhagwan,
Students and Staff of the University of the South Pacific,
Friends, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Kia Orana, Bula Vinaka and a special Iakwe aolep  Greetings to you all.

I am deeply honoured to join this commemoration initiated by the Republic of the Marshall Islands, to remember the victims and survivors of our shared Pacific nuclear legacy.

2. Firstly, I wish to recognise the people and community of the Republic of the Marshall Islands, here in Fiji. Thank you for championing this important cause here today. Indeed, the Marshallese story resonates strongly across the region and the globe, and is one we must all own, and support.

3. I also commend the Marshall Islands Students Association for another year convening this important event. Your efforts here today, and every day, contribute immensely towards our shared goal for nuclear justice, nuclear disarmament, and non-proliferation. I also wish to acknowledge the support from other student associations and bodies, Civil Society, and the leading work of the Marshall Islands National Nuclear Commission.

4. In reflecting on this occasion, we remember the 50-year period from 1946 to 1996 – during the Cold War era – when colonial superpowers used our Blue Pacific as a nuclear testing ground for their nuclear arms race. The detonation of over 300 nuclear devices resulted in fallout that was dispersed and detected throughout all corners of our region.

5. We are reminded once again of the devastating and permanent impacts of these grave injustices, crippling several of our communities as they continue to adapt to a crisis and a nuclear legacy shaping our common future A legacy that was not of their choice, and not of their making.

6. Global events of the past week – in Ukraine – further remind us that the arms race and the threat of nuclear war remains a clear and present danger. And it is our solemn obligation today to ensure that our future generations do not ultimately pay the price.

7. We must reverse this political tide. Now more than ever, we must reaffirm and stand with peace, through international law, international cooperation, and the elimination of all nuclear weapons. We must reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, and in the equal rights of men and women and of nations small and large.

8. Friends, today is not just about healing our past but about securing our future. I therefore encourage us all to remain alert to the many faces of the nuclear threat and why it remains very real to us today.

9. The growing urgency of climate change causing more frequent, stronger natural disasters across the globe have drawn attention to nuclear safety issues and the risk of large-scale nuclear accidents such as the 2011 Fukushima accident.

10. It is close to a year now since Japan announced it would discharge nuclear wastewater into our Pacific Ocean, beginning early next year. I want to recall the commitment of our Leaders in July 2021 to approach this issue with all caution, through international cooperation, international law, and independent scientific assessments.

11. And I want to give my full reassurance that we are doing the very best we can to ensure that no harm will befall our Pacific Ocean, our Blue Pacific. I am especially pleased to report that a panel of five global experts have joined our quest for expert information and knowledge, as we continue to engage with Japan.

12. Like these experts, we are pursuing every possible avenue and scenario – in science, in law – and leaving no stone unturned to keep our Blue Pacific safe and free. We owe this especially to our families and loved ones whom we commemorate and remember today.

13. Friends, our 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific will cement our shared fight and resolve against nuclear weapons and nuclear waste, firmly rooted in our South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone Treaty.

14. Ladies and Gentlemen, as we remember our dear families and friends taken too early and unjustly through the scourge of war and nuclear testing, let us use these memories and stories to fuel our hope for the present and for the future. I am fully committed to do my part to fight for nuclear justice for the Marshall Islands, for Kiribati, for French Polynesia, for Australia, and for the entire Blue Pacific.

Kommol tata, vinaka, I thank you.