Waves of anger across the Pacific
Tuesday 03 October 1995
France caused fresh outrage in the South Pacific yesterday after it carried out its second underground nuclear test. It dashed any remaining hopes that the protests which swept the world after the test last month would change the mind of the government in Paris.
The test happened within hours of French commandos seizing and taking into custody the Manutea, a Greenpeace yacht. It was the last of four vessels Greenpeace has lost to French raids around Mururoa atoll, where the first in the series of tests took place, and Fangataufa since early last month.
Unlike two of the earlier seizures, Rainbow Warrior II and Vega, the Manutea was outside the 12-mile (20km) military exclusion zone when the commandos boarded it. French military authorities said the arrest was justified because an inflatable craft had been launched into the prohibited zone from the Manutea. Lynette Thorstensen, the Greenpeace campaign director in Tahiti, denied this, and claimed the craft came from another vessel among the international peace flotilla.
Oscar Temaru, leader of Tavini Huiraatira, the Polynesian Liberation Front, the main independence party in French Polynesia, said he had hoped the international outrage and the riots in Tahiti which followed the 5 September test might have persuaded President Jacques Chirac to abandon the rest of what is scheduled to be seven or eight tests up to May.
"My feeling today is more one of pain than anger," he said. "We had confidence in the human being of Jacques Chirac, but for the second time he has allowed his animal instinct to take over. Mururoa and Fangataufa are part of Polynesian heritage. A Polynesian has three symbols in life: land, sea and air. The French have destroyed all three. It's like losing a family member again."
The French military surprised everyone by taking the unusual step of conducting the latest test on a Sunday, strictly observed as a day of worship among Polynesians, more than 80 per cent of whom are Christians. Tahiti was deserted, with most Polynesians attending church or at home. It may have been a tactical move to pre-empt a repetition of last month's violence, when 3,000 young Polynesians burned and looted the airport and shops in Papeete, the capital.
More than 1,000 gendarmes and riot police patrolled Papeete last night. They were backed by almost five times the number of police who struggled to control the September riots. Tension was high in Papeete, but anti- nuclear and pro-independence leaders called for restraint.
Australia and New Zealand called in the French ambassadors yesterday to protest. Jim Bolger, New Zealand's Prime Minister, kept the ambassador waiting 15 minutes for a meeting lasting 10 minutes.
Mr Bolger said later: "It's just so much waste because there's no French person alive, from the French President down, who could suggest in any rational way which time and in what circumstances they would use a nuclear weapon and against whom."
Paul Keating, Prime Minister of Australia, said it would be "unceasing and unrelenting" in efforts to press France to abandon the tests.
After a meeting in Canberra with Bob McMullan, the acting Foreign Minister, Dominique Girard, the French ambassador, said he had refused to apologise for the tests. "We're doing what we're doing in a most reasonable way with the utmost precaution. So we have nothing to apologise about."
- 1 The BBC has just done more to eradicate ‘terrorism’ than all our wars since 9/11
- 2 Dog thinks owner is drowning in lake, dives in and tries to pull him out
- 4 Chilling drone footage captures Auschwitz ahead of 70th anniversary of liberation
Asteroid narrowly scrapes past Earth: how to watch the closest space rock for decades as it flies by
Saudi preacher who 'raped and tortured' his five -year-old daughter to death is released after paying 'blood money'
Greece elections: Greek PM Alexis Tsipras takes aim at 'neo-liberal' Europe as country gears up for prolonged austerity battle
Pornhub star Mia Khalifa receives death threats after being ranked the site's top adult actress
Prince Philip set to be knighted by Australia: Celebrate by reading his greatest gaffes
'We would evict Queen from Buckingham Palace and allocate her council house,' say Greens
French court convicts three over homophobic tweets, in case hailed as a 'significant victory' by LGBT rights campaigners
Greece elections: Syriza and EU on collision course after election win for left-wing party
British Muslim school children suffering a backlash of abuse following Paris attacks
Islamic history is full of free thinkers - but recent attempts to suppress critical thought are verging on the absurd
30,000 reasons why the rhetoric on immigrants claiming benefits can stop now
£38000 - £42000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the UK's best performing...
£35000 - £43000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our award-winning client is one...
£15000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leading provider of Atlas ...
£18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Opportunity to join established...