"UK should do the honourable thing" Nuclear Test Veteran
United Kingdom urged to honor its debt to veterans of nuclear testing in the Pacific.
The chairman of the New Zealand Nuclear Test Veterans Association, Roy Sefton says it is the UK and not Fiji who should be compensating Fiji's nuclear test veterans.
His comments come after the Fijian Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama announced he could no longer wait for Britain and the veterans will be paid by his government.
Media reports say the men are to get about five thousand US dollars each.
But Roy Sefton told Koroi Hawkins no amount of money can compensate for the impact of the nuclear tests on veterans lives.
ROY SEFTON: Well it's very much the same. In fact Fiji was part of a group of claimants from the UK, New Zealand and Fiji who have been through the UK courts, eventually ending up in the supreme court for compensation for widows and veterans. But we lost by one vote.
KOROI HAWKINS: And what was the effect of all this? Does this mean that nothing else can be claimed for any veterans of nuclear testing?
RS: We live in the hope and we are still fighting that we will be able to find an avenue that will direct us back into the courts or into some form of negotiation with the British government so that compensation can in fact be made available to those claimants.
KH: I've just, I come from a generation that can't even, that jumps up and down when they remove coral from a reef and I can't even imagine someone suggesting even, testing nuclear weapons anywhere in the Pacific or in Oceania. What was it like to be there and to be going through that testing? Was it just taken as normal?
RS: Well of course it was a different attitude in those days and people followed governments quite blindly and I am talking about civilians as well as servicemen. Servicemen in particular just did as they were told. The general attitude was one of well it's the cold war and we've got to build these bombs to protect ourselves and become part of the nuclear powers. The destruction of the environment did go on. You see, Christmas Island was a bird sanctuary. Thousands upon thousands upon thousands of birds lived there. And they eventually shifted the testing program from Malden Island after the third test to Christmas Islands which was actually also the base for the servicemen. And they were exploding them just off the Christmas Island coast. I was in the Navy and apart from seeing birds and fish floating in the ocean, men were detailed off on Christmas Island to go out with pickaxe handles or whatever and bludgeon those birds to death that had been blinded either by the flash or burnt to a point that they weren't able to continue to live or survive. Thousands of them and hardened servicemen it broke there heart doing this. And that's only just a small example and these birds flapping around not being able to see or suffering terrible burns is just um.......it's disturbing in the most. And that's the sort of the thing that probably we were exposed to the most.
KH: What is it that nuclear veterans, test veterans are asking for now in 2015 we are in now. And in the light of what Fiji is doing for its servicemen?
RS: The British government really needs to do the honorable thing. I think really it has got to be the only government in the world that doesn't give some meaningful recognition to its veterans and we include ourselves in that.
KH: How much, what do you think the value of compensation for a single veteran should be or to reflect all the atrocities and the sufferings?
RS: That's the hard question and one that I can't really answer. But what the Fijian prime minister has done given their economy he has made what is probably a generous offer or paid a generous compensation. But in comparison, the compensation that these people should be getting, you've got to look at the effects on peoples lives. Many, even myself, my life has been destroyed by this nuclear testing program that I was involved in. I had to give up a lucrative career in arts and music at an, in my early thirties. Go on a pension and there are many people who have suffered worse and like myself also have ongoing illnesses. I don't know how you compensate that in real monetary terms. But it's certainly, in reality it's worth more than what the Fijian veterans received. But I repeat they are still hoping that the UK government whose responsibility it is should come and make that compensation available to the Fiji veterans and I suspect everyone else who has claims against them.
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