Students speak out on nuclear weapons

Thursday August 29, 2013 Written by Published in Local
Students speak out on nuclear weapons

‘From a nuclear-free Pacific to a nuclear-free world’ was the topic of student speeches in a competition that coincided with the international day against nuclear testing.

Tereora College students and Red Cross volunteer Ridge Ponini won first prize in the competition, receiving $500 that he intends to give back to Red Cross.

Second place went to Ngatokorua Hosking of Tereora College who won $300, while Titikaveka College student Trina Oti received $200 for her speech. The prize money was donated by the International Committee of Red Cross (ICRC).

Three students from Tereora College, Willie Ave, Felicia George and Charlie Charlie, received $20 Telecom mobile top-up cards. All students also received a drink bottle and mug that are part of Red Cross HIV awareness programme.

The competition was judged by secretary general of Cook Islands Red Cross Francis Topa-Apera, Bev Patterson of the Australian Red Cross, Finn Ruda of the ICRC, foreign affairs officer Amelia Francess Fukofuka from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Immigration and advisor at the Ministry of Education Johanna Gifford.

Ruda gave an overview of the topic, and said the students and other young people are needed to carry on the legacy of Red Cross.

“You are the future leaders of the Cook Islands. What you are doing today is something very serious, that is a concern to everybody,” he said. “The organisation that I represent (ICRC) was born on the battlefield it has been around a very, very long time.”

Ruda spoke of the Red Cross’ 150 years of humanitarian service and its call to abandon the development and use of nuclear weapons.

“We all know this has not gone according to plan,” he said.

“All of you have to take up the baton and be the ones leading the Pacific,” he said to the students. “You are the future leaders of this country. Be open, be courageous, and have fun.”

Red Cross policy and advocacy advisor Fine Arnold said the topic of nuclear weapons is very relevant to the Cook Islands.

“The Cook Islands along with the rest of the Pacific has every right to feel strong about today The fact is the Cook Islands has been at the front seat of nuclear testing for a very long time.”

She gave the example of 1957, when the British government set off three nuclear bombs in the sky, close enough to Penrhyn that the island’s inhabitants saw the sky light up.

“That tells just how close our small country came to these awful weapons,” said Arnold.

She said the Cook Islands should be proud of its long history of standing up against nuclear weapons.

“Even before self-governance Cook Islanders were doing what they could to stop the practice,” said Arnold.

But she added the issue of nuclear weapons is an ongoing one.

“Today, that Pacific is a nuclear-free zone but let me tell you, this is not the end of the problem.”

The six students reiterated the stance against nuclear weapons in their speeches.

First place winner Ponini said the Cook Islands has an important part to play in the goal of a nuclear-free world.

“We in the Pacific have the potential to balance the scale of the calamity,” he said.

Red Cross volunteer Ave said there is no benefit to be gained from the use of nuclear weapons.

“It causes nothing but destruction disrupts peace, causes people to hide in fear both sides suffer casualties and consequences,” he said.

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