Too high a price for N-tests

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 27 September, 1995, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 27 September, 1995, 12:00am

IT was most unfortunate to read the letter about French nuclear testing in the South China Morning Post, on September 20. As the writer reveals, the history of the world is indeed one that is fraught with atrocities, genocide and environmental disasters.

However, to use this as an argument for not attempting to change our ways is utterly absurd.

The long-term political, cultural and environmental effects of nuclear activity are well documented.

The French Government is well aware of this, which is why it intends to sign a comprehensive test ban treaty in 1996. However, those of us who approach the issue with a little less, or perhaps a little more, naivete can appreciate that the buy-now-pay-later cliche does not apply to this issue. The impact of nuclear testing on the world as we know it is unfortunately irreparable which is, of course, why Mr Jacques Chirac has chosen to perform his tests in the South Pacific.

Surely the writer is not suggesting that the fact that 'only 15 per cent of the population [in Tahiti] supports independence' has a direct correlation to their support for nuclear testing.

Certainly the violence that has been witnessed in Papeete is testimony to their views. The futility of the argument that represents the issue at hand as some battle for leadership as 'Australia and New Zealand want the South Sea for themselves', is evidenced in the response of nations from Greece to Japan and the US.

Surely they, too, do not want the South Sea for themselves.

This petty squabbling only acts as a smokescreen to avoid the issue at hand: the French Government (not necessarily the French people) has chosen to completely ignore the dangerous and far-reaching impact of its nuclear testing.

This is in addition to the views of the people of the South Pacific, not to mention those of the many other nations which have made the decision to exercise diplomatic and commercial sanctions in relations with France. Such blatant disregard is extremely arrogant.

Perhaps the most disappointing aspect of the letter is the inference that a large proportion of French people actually support the decision of the Government to end the moratorium. While I view the entire situation as abominable, I have in no way made the rash assumption that the French people are all directly responsible (although it must be said that Mr Chirac's support of resuming testing was addressed during his election campaign).

I merely thought that Mr Chirac had actually made a very grave political decision, and indeed he has. It is unfortunate that he and his supporters will not be the ones paying the price.

That the French Government can be presented as 'committed to peace' is quite inconceivable. And in this case the so-called 'high price for making a commitment to peace' is indeed not being paid by the people of France, but by the people of the South Pacific, and by those who will feel the direct and indirect repercussions of the blasts - the largest of which will have roughly seven times the power of the bomb that destroyed Hiroshima.

To find a solution to the grave apocalyptic abilities with which man has armed himself, we must focus not on what has gone before, but be united in our insistence on what is acceptable for our future. That war, famine and racial prejudice continue to be faced on such a global scale today is indeed a tragedy. I would hope that these, too, will continue to be addressed by not only the French Government but by governments around the world.

I would say that in this instance, the so-called 'people who want to champion good causes' are indeed choosing those causes carefully. To suggest that is not the case smacks of ignorance.