NEWS

Follow Us, PM Tells Britain

Fiji is not prepared to wait for Britain to do the right thing and compensate Christmas Island nuclear test survivors, says Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama. In a historic announcement yesterday,
31 Jan 2015 12:25
Follow Us, PM Tells Britain
Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama hands out the Christmas Island (Operation Grapple) payout to veteran Jone Valivai in Suva yesterday. Photo: Rama

Fiji is not prepared to wait for Britain to do the right thing and compensate Christmas Island nuclear test survivors, says Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama.

In a historic announcement yesterday, he said: “We owe it to these men to help them now, not wait for the British politicians and bureaucrats.”

“Fiji is setting an example that we hope Britain and other nations will follow.”

He said the compensation was a “modest token of what we can afford to finally acknowledge the great injustice that was done to them almost six decades ago.”

Twenty four survivors each received $9855.

“Today, a saga that began nearly-sixty years ago comes  full circle. Because we are finally making payments to 24 surviving veterans of the more than 70 Fijian soldiers who, in 1958, were sent to take part in the British nuclear test programme at Christmas Island, in what was then the Gilbert Islands and is now Kiribati.

It was called Operation Grapple and today we are still grappling with its effects.” Christmas is now called Kiritimati.

Mr Bainimarama said: We are righting a wrong.

“We are closing an unfortunate chapter in our history. We are bringing justice to a brave and proud group of Fijians to whom a great injustice was done,” he said.

He told the survivors: “I can tell you all that every Fijian joins me in thanking you not only for your service but for your perseverance and your patience. It has taken far too long.

“But today as a nation, we say sorry. It was not our fault, but we are sorry for what you have suffered over the years.

“Unlike past Fijian and British governments, we have not let the matter rest. We, the FijiFirst Government will not allow the voices pleading for justice to be silenced as they pass into history. We will not allow your just cause to be forgotten,” he told the survivors.

“I am proud to lead the FijiFirst Government which is committed to giving substantive justice to every Fijian.

“And today, we are finally bringing justice to the veterans of Operation Grapple.

“You may ask: why is Fiji taking responsibility for something that is the fault of Britain? My answer is this: Too much time has passed. The ranks of these survivors are rapidly thinning.

“Too many men – our fellow Fijians – have gone to their graves without justice. Those who remain deserve justice and Fiji as a nation is determined for them to finally get it.

“We need to erase this blight on our history. We need to lift the burden on our collective conscience. There is a saying that justice delayed is justice denied. And these men have been denied justice long enough.

“To them I say: We salute you for following your orders at the time, the orders of a colonial power pursuing its own agenda in the world.

“You are living testament to our determination to never again allow our pristine Pacific environment to be violated by outside powers in such a destructive and terrible manner.”

Feedback: maikab@fijisun.com.fj

 




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