Selina N. Leem delivered this statement on behalf of NAPF at the UN General Assembly’s event to commemorate the International Day Against Nuclear Tests on August 26, 2020.
President of the UN General Assembly, Delegates, and Distinguished Guests,
As a child, seeing two of my baby cousins, nuclear babies born with defects and only a few days to live, taking their last breath left me a sea of anger. The injustice.
As my aunt painted the crouching lady, curled into herself, her head held low, mourning one too many times for bodies her own gave and a war took. Her tears followed the pool of despair from 1946. This is my family’s legacy.
The US only recognizes four of our islands as being contaminated from nuclear tests: Enewetak, Rongelap, Utrik, Bikini. Take the first letter of each name and you get ERUB- the Marshallese word for broken, destroyed. An only apt description of how we were treated and left. It’s been 74 years since my fellow Bikinians left their home island for “the good of mankind and to end all world wars”- words by Commodore Ben H. Wyatt of the United States’ military. Except our people were already good. World wars? We were not involved in one. We were brought into two.
My people, our islands were sacrificed for ‘the good of mankind and to end all world wars.’ 75 years have passed, and I have failed to see that accomplished. It WAS NOT for the end of the world my people left, it was for all of you, myself, and my generation and the future generations after me.
The international community adopted the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty in 1996, but it has still not entered into force, due to a lack of support amongst certain states. A certain nuclear weapon state is even considering the resumption of nuclear testing.
The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons was adopted in 2017 and will soon enter into force. The nuclear ban treaty not only seeks the total abolition of nuclear weapons, including nuclear testing, but also requires, for the first time, international cooperation to assist victims of nuclear testing and help remediate contaminated environments. The ban treaty has the support of the vast majority of the world’s states but faces opposition from those few who continue to profit from a system, where a few states wield the power to destroy humanity. I applaud those 44 states that have so far ratified the nuclear ban treaty — the small island state of St. Kitts and Nevis was the most recent, earlier this month — as well as those 84 states that have so far signed the treaty-our event chair, herself, signed the ban treaty yesterday on behalf of Malta. And I urge the rest of the world to swiftly join this treaty also.
We simply cannot wait for certain states to create an environment for nuclear disarmament. Ne reba kon malon, konej malon? If they tell you to drown, are you to follow suit? It is past time for us to abolish nuclear weapons.
Survivors are demanding action! No one should live in fear. Everyone should embrace the TPNW, the international legal instrument that prohibits nuclear weapons. Sign and ratify.
No more Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Enewetak, Rongelap, Utrik, Bikini!
“For the good of mankind and to end all world wars.”
Komool tata. Thank you.