Former soldiers who suffered health problems after being exposed to radiation by British nuclear tests in the Pacific in the 1950s are to receive compensation from Fiji, after the country’s leader criticised the UK for refusing to help.
Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama, whose father led a group of around 70 Fijian servicemen sent to Christmas Island during the tests in 1957 and 1958 while their country was a British colony, awarded 24 veterans just over £3,000 each at a ceremony yesterday.
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“Fiji is not prepared to wait for Britain to do the right thing,” he said, in comments reported by the AFP news agency. “We owe it to these men to help them now, not wait for the British politicians and bureaucrats.”
Mr Bainimarama said the soldiers who were stationed on Christmas Island – which is now known as Kiritimati and has become part of the nation of Kiribati – to carry out military tests without being told it involved nuclear weapons.
They had suffered from illnesses including leukaemia.
Mr Bainimarama added: “We are righting a wrong. We are closing an unfortunate chapter in our history.”
Thousands of other veterans of the tests from countries including Australia and New Zealand have never received compensation.
The Ministry of Defence said it was grateful to the servicemen who “contributed to important tests that helped to keep our nation secure during the Cold War”.Reuse content