Fiji Prime Minister calls on support of African and Caribbean countries to oppose nuclear shipments

Press release - 18 July, 2002

Greenpeace and local groups in Suva, Fiji demonstrate, on July 5th 2002, the Pacific people's opposition to plutonium shipments through the Pacific.

The Prime Minister of Fiji Mr. Laisenia Qarase, called on the Heads of Government at the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) meeting in Fiji today to join the Pacific in its outrage and opposition to the shipments of plutonium MOX waste travelling through the region.

The ACP meeting, attended by delegations representing 78 countries, is being held in Nadi, Fiji and the Prime Minister made the statement during the opening session

The Prime Minister said in his opening speech, "As I speak a ship carrying plutonium is heading for our waters, having traversed other parts of the region. We will be asking you to join with us in expressing our outrage and opposition to those who are so willing to put the Pacific and our peoples at risk." The response from the meeting was applause.

Angenette Heffernan of Greenpeace has welcomed the statement by the Prime Minister of Fiji, saying:

"We commend the Prime Minister for taking a leadership role on this issue and are confident that the ACP will support his statement. The Prime Minister's statement is a strong indication that this will be a key issue for the Pacific Heads of Government when they meet at their annual meeting next month"

The two ships, Pacific Pintail and Pacific Teal, carrying 255 KGs of weapons-usable material have in the last week breached the Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ) of the Federated States of Micronesia, the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and Papua New Guinea. They are now heading towards the EEZ of New Caledonia.

Each nation has the right to protect the marine environment within its EEZ under the Law of the Sea Convention. In the light of the dangers to the marine environment and populations of coastal states, the failure of the shipping states to take basic steps such as consulting with en route states about the route and safety arrangements, the BNFL ships have no rights to 'innocent passage' through territorial waters and can be asked to stay out of en route countries' EEZs. The United Kingdom, which is the flag State of the vessels, has previously given New Zealand an assurance it will not pass through New Zealand's EEZ. The passage through the EEZs of other Pacific States such as FSM, despite their specific request to stay out, is discriminatory and insulting to those smaller States, as well as dangerous.

"Australia, New Zealand and Ireland have been notified about the route and the time of the Pacific Pintail and Pacific Teal's transit, but BNFL have failed to consult with the Pacific Nations and are now trying to silence any information being released to the Pacific countries about the whereabouts of the ships. This is tantamount to racism. They are showing blatant discrimination towards these islands by showing no concern for the opinions, wishes and safety of the Pacific", said Ms Heffernan.