February 24, 2016
The National Federation Party applauds the display of unity and solidarity of all our people in providing assistance in every possible manner to the many thousands of our people, whose livelihood has been destroyed by Severe Tropical Cyclone Winston.
An NFP team led by the Party Leader toured most parts of the Western Division on Tuesday (February 23) and saw for themselves the extent of death and destruction caused by Winston, which is easily the most destructive natural disaster not only in Fiji but the region as well.
Assessment based on pictures from especially from Vanuabalavu, Koro, Taveuni, Savusavu, Tailevu, Ra, Tavua, Ba and many other areas has shown destruction of unprecedented proportions.
We extend our deepest condolences to the families of those who have lost loved ones. We also express our heartfelt sympathies to all our people who have affected in one way or the other by this monstrous cyclone.
In the midst of the severe damage, destruction and death, the people from areas and districts that escaped the wrath of the cyclone have travelled to the disaster areas to provide humanitarian assistance. Those unable to travel are organising fundraising drives to assist people. Former Fiji residents have also started collecting funds.
The work of our Good Samaritans is highly commendable. We also sincerely thank our neighbours Australia and New Zealand as well as the international community for their quick assistance. This is highly appreciated.
The NFP also supports the Prime Minister’s call for unity and Government’s plans to rehabilitate the lives of the victims. We realise it is not an easy task especially when thousands of homes have been destroyed in a manner similar to someone crumbling and tearing a sheet of paper.
We also support his call for civil servants to be efficient in delivering assistance. This must be done with impartiality.
Damage is extensive and widespread. All wheels of government machinery must move consistently in alleviating the pain and suffering of our people. We have established that food and water are the first basic needs that are needed by the victims because crops, livestock and food stood in their homes has been destroyed.
We understand Government is carrying out a survey and assessment by way of distribution of forms. This means that food rations will not be distributed until next week. This is unacceptable.
By now Government would have established the areas that need immediate help. It will be of great relief to the victims if Government transports food and water in large quantities to the affected and identified areas immediately. Victims who have lost every thing cannot wait any longer. They need food, water and clothing immediately. We know that friends, family members, and various other organisations have already started distributing basic items and we commend them for their efforts in bringing relief to the affected families.
It is clear that tens of millions of dollars will be needed in the short term to bring some degree of relief to the flood victims. As a priority, we suggest that Government’s machinery do the following:
1. Deploy army engineers to repair badly damaged schools and infrastructure essential for basic services like water supply and health facilities.
2. Authorise FNPF to allow withdrawals by members to help in rehabilitation of homes and purchase basic household items.
3. FNPF should also allow members not affected by floods to withdraw funds to help immediate relatives who are not members of the Fund like cane farmers, farm labourers, villagers etc.
4. Approve a house rehabilitation package with a minimum assistance of $5000 to re-build lost or damaged homes, apart from providing basic homes as advertised today because this will take months.
5. Approve a crop rehabilitation package to assist the agricultural sector and the sugar industry. In 1998 more than $50million was provided by the then government to cane farmers following the prolonged drought. This time twice more will be needed, especially when we lost the European Union grant after the coup.
6. The businesses that have lost everything and those in danger of going under cannot survive even with assistance by their banks or delay in loan repayments. A rehabilitation package is also needed for them.
7. Government must build temporary shelters where schools have been destroyed so that our children can resume classes after the two week break announced by the PM. Any further delay will escalate the pressure on both teachers and students who from last year have been directed by the Education Ministry to complete the curriculum in two terms.
These are basic short-term measures. Much more is needed to be done in the long term.We hope Government accepts our suggestions and stands ready to help in the massive rehabilitation process.