FIJI NUCLEAR FREE FLOTILLA

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This article was published in the March 2001 edition of the Pacific News Bulletin, monthly magazine of the Pacific Concerns Resource Centre.

A flotilla of 30 boats, canoes and Optimist Sailboats had a sail-past through Suva Harbor on March 10 to protest against the transshipment of dangerous nuclear fuel through the Pacific Islands region from Europe to Japan. NGO organizations, canoe and sailing clubs, youth groups, business people, and concerned individuals got together to organize and participate in the event dubbed the ‘Fiji Nuclear Free Flotilla.’

Over a hundred people took part in the symbolic protest, which was launched by the Nauru High Commissioner to Fiji, Camilla Solomon. Boats carried flags and banners with the slogans: ‘No nukes in our backyard’; ‘No to nuclear shipments’; ‘No nukes through the Pacific’; ‘France, Japan, Britain keep your nukes ships out of our waters’; and ‘Nuclear Free Pacific’.

Protesters chanted: ‘Nuclear Free Yeah!’, ‘Say You! Say Me! Say Nuclear Free!’, ‘All we are saying, is be nuclear free’, ‘Nuclear Free Now!’, and ‘Your Shipments are so ugly, don’t bring it here to us. Its ugly! Its ugly! Its ugly, ugly, ugly!

"The sea is our heritage. Much of our history and culture is intertwined with this massive ocean. It is our livelihood. Some of our small and fragile island nations depend entirely on the resources of the sea," said Nauru High Commissioner Camilla Solomon as the flotilla prepared to launch.

"This is why we are here today. To impress on those involved in the shipment of plutonium a clear signal: This is a nuclear-free Pacific and we will continue to struggle to keep it that away."

"The gathering is significant. It is an expression of our common aspirations as people of the Pacific region desiring to maintain and keep our island environment free from the threats of nuclear contamination."

Flotilla spokesperson Natalia Bentley said that the group wanted to lend its voice to the campaign to stop the transshipment of hazardous nuclear material through the Pacific region. She strongly urged the governments of France, Britain and Japan to cease using the Pacific Ocean as a freeway for transporting the hazardous material.

"We have organized today’s events to show our solidarity and support for the recent Tasman Peace flotilla which also called for an immediate end to these transshipments," Ms Bentley added.

"It is vital that we make a stand on this issue as Fiji islanders," she said adding that the flotilla also echoed opposition to the shipments in other Pacific Island nations.

Strong backing has also come from youth groups such as Youthemedia and the Pacific Concerns Resource Center. The Nuclear Free Flotilla organizing group includes representatives from regional organisations, non-government organisations, local canoe and boat clubs, youth groups and concerned citizens.

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