Outremers360: You attended a meeting in Vienna on the nuclear arms embargo. Can you explain to us what the purpose of this meeting was?
Hinamoura Cross: I was invited by ICAN, an international organization that brings together a few more organizations that defend the elimination of nuclear weapons. I was even more specifically invited by ICAN France, represented by Jean-Marie Colin, and in fact had the idea of a person who could represent French Polynesia, as French Polynesia was the site of the nuclear test from 1966 to 1996.
Even if we talk about the abolition of nuclear weapons, the treaty contains two articles (Arts 6 and 7) that require that all regions that have been exposed to nuclear energy must have adequate medical assistance. And in the sense that it was interesting to me as a Polynesian to go there and say that France, although they did not ratify the treaty, does not respect these 6 and 7 paragraphs, because we have no medicine. Adapting to what we have suffered for 30 years.
In fact, we have a hospital and two clinics on the island of Tahiti. But even today, thousands of Polynesians have to seek treatment in France, more precisely in Paris. Hundreds of children with leukemia are treated there. I know a minor here who has been treated in Paris with her mother for about four years. I find it disgraceful that we do not have a hospital worthy of a name compared to 193 nuclear tests in Polynesia. I think all people suffering from radiation-borne diseases in Polynesia should be treated.
I went to Vienna to say that France does not recognize trans-generation disease. For France, all sick children after December 31, 1998, it is not due to radioactivity, where it is evident in other countries. Personally, I subscribe to this trans-generality because my grandmother, my mother and my aunt all had thyroid cancer. My aunt also had breast cancer. I, until I was 24, had nothing, then I discovered that I had leukemia which I am still struggling with today. So I subscribe to this fight as a witness, as a Polynesian, but also as a victim of the French nuclear test because my illness is a radiation-induced illness.
How do other countries that have ratified the treaty, who are “victims” of nuclear energy, manage to link these trans-generational diseases to nuclear energy?
For them, it is obvious, an everyday reality, and not even this question, when I am fighting in Polynesia to understand that my illness is due to nuclear tests. This is only in Polynesia, France, where you have to try to justify yourself. And that’s why we’re calling for an independent epidemiological study. This was the INSERM report that left us in complete darkness and has no value. This is why it is important to speak internationally and raise awareness. The communication we have from France on this matter is not serious. We only have fragments and the 2010 Compensation Act is one of them.
Precisely, you said that you have started the process of requesting compensation under this Act but you have given up. Why?
I actually gave up, but now I’m going to try again. When I get back to Tahiti, I will. I initially read the paperwork, the administrative heaviness, and some of the court decisions so we could identify the sick, and left in particular by realizing the cost. There, for me, it was psychologically very difficult because it was a heavy ordeal for people. Imagine, I do my file and I am recognized as a victim of the nuclear test, I will have € 5,000 and then it is over. The disease I have is incurable, it will never go away. Every time I stopped chemo to let him sleep I was devastated.
And then the administrative heaviness slows down the people, the sick. There is a whole mentality, people are afraid. Before talking about my illness, I don’t know why, or how to explain it, but I was embarrassed and I was scared. I think there is still social trauma related to this period which explains why it is more laborious to demand compensation. Since I am an anti-nuclear activist, I want to go all the way. I am going to do my file, but I am apprehensive about the emotional impact that the decision will have because for me, this disease I live with every day. It is a sword of Damocles that cannot be encrypted and it will not go away with a check.
Since France has not ratified the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, what can we expect from this meeting and your participation?
The idea was to take the fight out of French Polynesia and talk about it with all the states present and in a way put pressure on France. And I really felt that, in any case, during these meetings, there was solidarity among all these militants and a help from them. They wondered how French Polynesia, which they consider a colony, could benefit from these articles 6 and 7.
They concluded that a mechanism must be put in place so that Polynesia, who cannot ratify the treaty because it is not an independent state, could benefit from financial assistance to help patients. So it’s a verbal promise, which has started to put on paper, and we’re in the long run, but it’s already a start. We really feel this solidarity when we are very small on the world map. I should mention that no nuclear-armed state has signed this treaty.
At the same time, there is an international context to the war in Ukraine, and we think of this threat from Vladimir Putin. This topic must be mentioned during this meeting …
Yes, of course, this is a coincidence because the meeting was scheduled for the end of June for a while and in the meantime the war in Ukraine was approaching. Indeed, it has made it possible to further support this agreement, as the nuclear threat is very present. It gave the mill grist.
Last year there was a roundtable in Paris on the results of the nuclear test, at which time Polynesia’s social insurance fund CPS called for reimbursement of all costs incurred in the treatment of cancer, patients, radiation-induced illnesses since the 80s. To date, he has not responded. What are your feelings about that?
I am completely angry at this. I already had the opportunity to talk about it at the UN on October 8, 2019. I condemned the fact that there have been patients for generations and generations and I said that the 193 nuclear tests carried out by the French state are a crime against humanity. I further said that today, we have a second crime, which is that France condemns us for paying for the disease caused by its trial and I think it is unacceptable. And I will continue to condemn it internationally, remembering that all of this depends on Polynesia, which suffers greatly. This is unacceptable.
In fact, if you look at history, before the nuclear test, Polynesia in France had the potential for health and we already knew at the time that the results of such tests could be within 10 years. Hiroshima and Nagasaki occurred in 1945 and the first health results were felt around 1955. France made its first attempt in 1966, and in 1977, France returned health skills to Polynesia. So there, for me, it was already calculated. We have not only bombed, we have been poisoned in our pulpits, in our ponds, and in addition we have been condemned to pay the price.
How do you want to implement your anti-militant and anti-nuclear promises?
My project is to create a foundation. And in this foundation, there will be this place for education. Let me explain: I’m talking about education and memory disarmament. There is so much to do about this. When I was in Tahiti and I explained that I was sick because of the nuclear test, people thought I was a bit bigoted. In Vienna, nuclear power is also a victim for speakers from other countries, it is obvious. And I said to myself, no, I wasn’t enlightened. It was a relief.
And so I want to create this foundation, with a library that will bear the name of Bruno Barrilot (an image of the fight against nuclear, editor’s note). I want to put together what we know about nuclear energy there, and provide a place of work for Polynesian students, so that the Foundation can fund doctoral thesis and research work so that Polynesians can recover their history and start writing it. And the goal of the Foundation is to be international so that we can continue to exchange peace with other countries.
This Saturday, July 2, is an important date in Polynesia: Historically, organizations involved in the fight against nuclear weapons and the care of the sick will commemorate the first test in Polynesia (July 2, 1966). I think you will?
Yes, I absolutely had to go back to Tahiti for this date. We are going for a walk with the Moruroa e Tatou Association and the Ma’ohi Protestant Church, and then we are going to go to the trial memorial stall at Place Tu Maramate in Papua New Guinea, where there will be lectures and songs. And I had the opportunity to speak just before the president of the Maoist Protestant Church.
To learn more about the July 2, 1966 commemoration ceremony, here it is.