TOMORROW, the world will commemorate the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, a stark symbol of the ideological divide during the Cold War.
The fall of the Berlin Wall was followed by the Malta Summit three weeks later, in which the Soviet Union leader Mikhail Gorbachev and then United States President Ronald Reagan declared an end to the Cold War.
One of the most dangerous effects of the Cold War that still lingers today is the build-up of nuclear weapons. As several nations rushed headlong into stockpiling weapons that they claim they’d never have to use, humanity put itself under a shroud of possible annihilation.
The Cold War period saw the detonation of over 2,000 nuclear weapons in tests, including the largest of them all – the Soviet Union’s Tsar Bomba in 1961, which had a blast yield of 50 megatons of TNT, or over 3,300 times more powerful than Little Boy that destroyed Hiroshima.
At its peak, there were some 64,000 nuclear weapons globally in the mid-1980s. Due to the efforts of Soviet and US leaders, the numbers were reduced considerably. Yet, 30 years after the Cold War supposedly ended, there are close to 14,000 nuclear weapons still in existence.
Earlier this year, the US pulled out of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF Treaty), citing Russian non-compliance. Russia later pulled out as well. This treaty has been in force since 1988, following its signing by Gorbachev and Reagan the year before. The pull-out is certainly a step backwards in humanity’s quest for the total abolition of nuclear weapons.
In an interview with the BBC on Nov 4, Mikhail Gorbachev, one of the main architects of the end of the Cold War, said, “As long as weapons of mass destruction exist, primarily nuclear weapons, the danger is colossal. All nations should declare – all nations – that nuclear weapons must be destroyed. This is to save ourselves and the planet.” (https://bbc.in/
This is a truly significant interview coming on the heels of the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.
Gorbachev’s words are grave yet true. All nations must declare that nuclear weapons be destroyed, and that they commit themselves to doing so. We must ask ourselves:
1. Are nuclear weapons really necessary?
2. Why do we need to keep them?
3. Does humanity really have no choice but to live under the threat of nuclear weapons?
Ratifying the Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) is such an opportunity for nations to make an important commitment towards securing the safety and future of humanity and our world.
The treaty prohibits nations from developing, testing, producing, manufacturing, transferring, possessing, stockpiling, using or threatening to use nuclear weapons, or allowing nuclear weapons to be stationed on their territory.
It also prohibits state parties from assisting, encouraging or inducing anyone to engage in any of these activities. In simple terms: NO MORE NUCLEAR WEAPONS. FULL STOP.
To date, 79 countries have signed the TPNW and 33 have ratified it. While Malaysia’s Parliament is currently in session, it is unclear whether ratifying the TPNW is on the legislative agenda. The TPNW will come into force 90 days after 50 states have ratified it.
As a citizen, I truly hope our country will ratify this crucial treaty as soon as possible.
Ratifying the TPNW as soon as possible is a big step towards ensuring that we make the 21st century a Century of Humanity, and consign nuclear weapons – the most demonic invention of the previous century – to museums and history books.
August 2020 will mark the 75th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The number of hibakusha – survivors of these bombings – is getting smaller. Out of the 650,000 people recognised as hibakusha by the Japanese government, only around 145,000 are still alive. They have lived, and in many ways continue to relive, the horrors wrought by nuclear weapons. Many of them are actively speaking out against nuclear weapons. We must never forget the sufferings that they endured and continue to speak on their behalf.
I recall the testimony of Chisako Takeoka, whose story is told in the book Hiroshima And Nagasaki: That We Never Forget, a collection of hibakusha experiences that can be downloaded at https://bit.ly/34yQRUE.
She was 17 when the atomic bomb Little Boy detonated over Hiroshima. She speaks about her mother who lost her right eye, which had to be removed without anaesthetic or painkiller. Her mother tried to fight the procedure and shrieked for over an hour afterwards. Chisako said, “My mother never, ever spoke about her eye. Whenever I remember her, I am keenly aware that the atomic bomb not only scars bodies but leaves wounds that no one can heal deep in the heart.”
Some years later, Chisako married and had a son, Hironori. He was her “greatest source of hope”. But 18 days after his birth, the baby who had been nursing happily and healthily just two hours earlier suddenly began writhing in pain and died.
From his chest down onto his abdomen, the baby was covered with the purpura (spots of death) that Chisako had once seen on her own arms. His diagnosis was A-bomb disease. Though the war was over, the atomic bomb was still causing her family to suffer terribly.
Chisako ends her story with this determination: “I still tell my story in the (Hiroshima) Peace Memorial Museum and elsewhere. My daughter Mariko has become an A-bomb Legacy Successor. Such tragedy must never be repeated. Nuclear weapons must never, ever be used. As long as I have life, I will continue to speak out.”
Why did I pick her story? There is something personal to me about this. Chisako had other children. Last year, I met her grandson in Johor Baru during a youth exchange event. Though we never spoke about his grandmother, I cannot help but marvel at the sense of destiny that the two of us could meet although separated by geography and history. I can feel that he is fighting just like his grandmother for the abolition of nuclear weapons.
We have the golden opportunity to make it happen. I call upon our legislators to ratify the TPNW as soon as possible and be part of a brilliant history in humanity that ensures we are forever free from the shackles of nuclear weapons.
Malaysians must also raise our awareness on nuclear weapons and strive to work towards the abolition of these demonic weapons globally within our lifetime.
DINESH CHANDREN , Petaling Jaya