Barry Soper: Remembering Fernando Pereira, the Greenpeace photographer blown up in the Rainbow Warrior ship

Navy divers search for a missing person who was aboard the Greenpeace protest ship Rainbow Warrior when an explosion on sank the vessel at Marsden Wharf Auckland. Photo / Michael Bramley
Navy divers search for a missing person who was aboard the Greenpeace protest ship Rainbow Warrior when an explosion on sank the vessel at Marsden Wharf Auckland. Photo / Michael Bramley

It's a chapter in our diplomatic history we'd rather forget but we shouldn't. Certainly the family of Fernando Pereira will always remember July the 10th, 1985.

It's the day the Greeenpeace photographer lost his life in what the prime minister of the day David Lange described as a sordid act of international state-backed terrorism, when the Rainbow Warrior was blown up in Auckland harbour by the French as it was about to leave to protest nuclear testing at Mururoa Atoll.

We're again reminded of it because one of the perpetrators of that heinous act, Alain Mafart, then a French agent and now an acclaimed photographer, is a finalist in the prestigious British National History Museum's wildlife photographer of the year competition. The cruel irony won't be lost on the Pereira family.

The event is worth being reminded of because this sorry chapter shows this country is indeed a blip on the radar screen that was treated with contempt by the French.

A deal was brokered by the Dutch Prime Minister, acting an an intermediary, which had Mafart and his fellow provocateur Dominique Prieur pleading guilty to manslaughter and serving a piddling 17 months in jail of a three year sentence before being packed off to the French atoll of Hao.

Initially Lange claimed the French had intended to send the agents to a Club Med resort off the coast of Africa.

They were soon on their way back to Paris anyway to be hailed as heroes.

David Lange recalled in an interview with The Herald just months before his death in 2005 that it was the price we had to pay to maintain our butter exports to Europe.

Unable to stop himself he said Prieur was repatriated because she was pregnant while Mafart went back because he was flatulent, obvious he joked, by his name.

Lange rightly reasoned though that the bombing was the platinum card of three incidents that enshrined the anti nuclear movement in this country. The other two were the continuing, cursed tests at Mururoa Atoll and the big stick being waved by Uncle Sam when this country went down the anti nuclear road - the more he waved the stick the more resolute the policy became.

The Greenpeace photographer's family can at least take some solace in that, which will nevertheless be cold comfort, as the bomber receives his photographic accolades.

- NZ Herald

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