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French warships visit
Photos of protest
Why the French warships are not welcome
French warships not welcome in Wellington
Protest against Wellington City Council's 'civic welcome' for two French warships visiting Wellington, 13 February 2001.
Wellington City Council's planned outdoor welcome ceremony for the two visiting French warships - Jeanne d'Arc (helicopter carrier) and Georges Leygues (anti-submarine destroyer) - was cancelled because of the presence of protesters from Peace Movement Aotearoa, Peace Network, Omomo Melen Pacific, NZ University Student's Association and Christian World Service.
WCC initially set up their speakers stand and sound system in Civic Square, under strings of red, white and blue flags crisscrossing overhead. However, the arrival of protestors with large "Nuclear Free and Independent Pacific", "Independence NOW for New Caledonia and 'French' Polynesia" and "French military OUT of the Pacific now" banners and assorted posters boards with similar messages, resulted in the outdoor ceremony being cancelled and instead moved into the gloomy dark interior of the old Town Hall!
Led by a naval band, squads of French sailors decked out in white uniforms marched directly in front of the protesters and were greeted with chants of "shame shame shame" (in time to their marching beat), "go home", "decolonise Kanaky and Tahiti Polynesia", and "demilitarise the Pacific" as they approached, and later left, the Town Hall.
Des Brough (Peace Council) audiotaped the protest for broadcast on 'Peace Forum' (weekly programme on Wellington Access Radio); there were interviews with TV1, The Dominion (Wellington morning daily paper), Contact (Wellington weekly paper), and National Radio Maori news.
For the PMA Alert on why the French warships are not welcome see below.
26 January 2001
as you may be aware, two French warships will visit Wellington from 12 to 17 February. They are the Jeanne d’Arc (helicopter carrier) and Georges Leygues (anti-submarine destroyer). They will deliver 800 French sailors to Wellington for ‘festive activities, a parade through the city and an official reception’ organised by Wellington City Council.
While the Wellington City Council may welcome the presence of the warships, peace people around Aotearoa do not for the following reasons:
1) France is a nuclear weapons state.
While the French government may have reassured the NZ government that these warships are not carrying nuclear weapons at this time, they are nevertheless nuclear capable and part of a nuclear navy. France’s nuclear arsenals include nuclear depth charges which would be dropped from helicopters in anti-submarine warfare.
Despite the growing pressure for nuclear disarmament from governments around the world, who are increasingly adding their voices to those of the people who have demanded an end to all nuclear weapons for more than fifty years, the French government is adding new nuclear weapons to its arsenal. Their defence ministry announced a $US 215 million contract for new medium range air-launched nuclear missiles at the end of last month.
And, of course, their insane pursuit of new and ‘better’ nuclear weapons has created an environmental hazard of the most toxic kind in the Pacific - the French government exploded 46 nuclear weapons in the atmosphere over Moruroa and Fangataufa; and 147 underground nuclear weapons ‘tests’.
While the visit of the warships of any nuclear weapons state may not be a practical breach of the NZ Nuclear Free Zone, Disarmament and Arms Control Act (1987) it is clearly a breach of the spirit of the Act. How appropriate is it for the Council of ‘nuclear-free’ Wellington (and indeed the government of ‘nuclear-free’ Aotearoa) to be welcoming warships from a proliferating, unapologetic, nuclear weapons state ?
2) France is a military occupier in the Pacific.
France occupies our nearest neighbour in the Pacific, Kanaky (New Caledonia), as well as Te Ao Moahi (French Polynesia), and Wallis and Futuna with military garrisons and naval bases. These territories are considered (by the French) to be a part of France. In both Kanaky and Te Ao Moahi, peaceful protest against the military occupation and calls for independence have been met with extreme violence by armed French gendarmes and military personnel. France has a long record of gross human rights violations as a colonial power in the Pacific (and elsewhere), including torture, murder and imprisonment of independence activists in Kanaky and Te Ao Moahi .
Even the CIA (whose World Fact Book we like to consult to check we have our facts straight) under the listing for Kanaky, Te Ao Moahi and Wallis and Futuna states:
France has the second biggest military presence in the South Pacific after the US, and the French Pacific colonies are essential for them to retain that status.
The visit of the French warships highlights a strange double standard in NZ foreign policy. Phil Goff and other NZ government spokespersons speak often and loudly about “the restoration of democracy in Fiji”, and apply assorted sanctions against the people of Fiji (including banning some Fijians from entering this country). Strange how the democratic rights of the people of Kanaky and Te Ao Moahi don’t get a mention - and warships, the physical embodiment of French military occupation of parts of the Pacific, are welcomed.
Does this indicate the NZ government’s support for French military and colonial activities in the Pacific, or indifference to the fate of the indigenous peoples of the French colonies ?
3) Warships as goodwill ambassadors ?
We’ve said it before (and no doubt will have to say it again) it is extremely bizarre that warship visits are portrayed in the mass media as some kind of proof of ‘goodwill’. Warships are the ocean going demonstration of military might and arrogant colonialism, the floating bits of the global war machine which currently consumes $3,591,324 every minute of every hour of every day.
*** There will be a meeting to discuss possible responses to the French warships visit, and an update on the situation in Kanaky from Susanna Ounei (Omomo Melen Pacific: Women from the colonies of the Pacific), in the PMA offices on Thursday, 8 February at 5-30pm. If you wish to contribute to that meeting, but are unable to attend, please send your comments to PMA by 12 noon on that day.