General Secretary of the Pacific Council of Churches James Bhagwan asserted that the Pacific would not be swayed by “chequebook diplomacy,” likening aid acceptance with silence to Japan’s Fukushima wastewater release as “blood money” as he rallied attendees in Suva to stand resolute against the discharge.
In a speech to hundreds who marched through Suva today, Bhagwan drew a parallel between Japan’s decision to give aid to Pacific Island countries and opting for the cheapest method of wastewater disposal, to the Biblical account of the thirty pieces of silver.
“We will not be bought by chequebook diplomacy. We will not be bought by any country’s chequebook diplomacy,” Bhagwan told those who gathered who cheered as he said this.
“One thing that I find it very difficult to deal with is while they offer money in terms of the cheque book diplomacy, at the same time they have chosen the cheapest method of disposal. This is not the best case they are thinking of. This is the cheapest way that they can dispose of this. So we have to stand up and be strong and say if you give us aid money to be quiet, that is blood money. For those of us from the church we know about the 30 pieces of silver. No more pieces of silver whether it is on this issue, whether it is on climate injustice, no more pieces of silver.”
He rallied the people of Fiji, the government of Fiji, and all Pacific nations to stand strong against the Fukushima wastewater discharge, specifically calling upon the Pacific Forum and countries like Australia, New Zealand, the United States, and Japan to take immediate action and halt the discharge.
“I want to acknowledge the people of Kiribati, Marshall Islands, and all those who carried that legacy of nuclear testing. When they hear what is going on that is traumatic for them. This is an intergenerational issue and this is a Pacific issue. Pacific civil societies and Pacific churches have been calling for the last 10 years for Japan to be clear about what they are going to do. For the Pacific Forum and other countries to pay attention to this. And the thing that breaks my heart is whenever when there is an announcement of Fukushima, Japan comes in with aid.
“If it is safe, dump it in Tokyo.”
Bhagwan pointed out that the repercussions of the discharge will extend for decades, and that the politicians making decisions today might not be present to witness the consequences that the future generation would have to bear.
The rally which lasted for three hours began at the Flea Market finishing at Albert Park, via Victoria Parade which runs along BSP Life Building that houses the Japanese Embassy. The protesters then gathered in front of the Fiji Parliament holding signs that read various messages including one held abreast by a young female protester which said: “Dear PM just bcoz U don’t See the impact NOW doesnt mean I wont in the Future.”
The march today, organised by civil society groups to voice their disappointment with the action by Japan, comes a day after Japan began the discharge.
Some politicians who were present in the vicinity of the rally were requested to clear out as per the condition of the rally permit issued to organisers that prohibited political party representation participation.