While government dilly-dallies on its relief package,
desperate people withdraw $35m from FNPF to meet the crisis.
We are into the 4th week since Cyclone Winston cut a swathe of destruction across the country from Vanuabalavu in the south to the Yasawas in the West, BUT the FF government has still not announced a comprehensive relief package for the victims of the cyclone.
Entire villages and settlements have been flattened, thousands of people have lost parts of their homes, damage to household goods and items has been immense, crops have been ruined – leaving hundreds of thousands of families crying out for urgent assistance.
All the Fiji First government has done so far is to hand out food rations and tarpaulins donated by others. Even the commercial banks have announced their special cyclone relief packages but the nation still awaits any announcement of the government’s own relief assistance to the people affected.
There is no denying the acute need of our people. According to UNDP 350,000 people, almost 40% of Fiji’s population, have been severely hit by the cyclone. Some 55,000 homes have either been destroyed or substantially damaged.
Where is the government’s assistance for these desperate people? Front page Fiji Times today says: “Bainimarama outlines financial aid scenario”. But when you read the story there is no outline of any aid. Bainimarama continues to make promises for the future.
He says he will have to have a discussion with the Ministry of Finance to see what assistance government can provide to help people rebuild their homes. The Finance Minister is out of the country in India. In almost four weeks – they haven’t had a discussion on what relief assistance to provide?
Government has refused to heed the Opposition’s call for Parliament to sit to discuss the national crisis although they have declared a National Emergency. Parliament must meet to deal with the situation. FF wants to handle everything itself but has no notion how to go about it.
Meanwhile, while the Bainimarama government dilly-dallies, people are forced to draw on their own meagre resources and old-age pensions to meet the crisis as evident from the thousands and thousands who are withdrawing funds from the FNPF.
As of 1pm yesterday (15 March), FNPF had received 120,000 applications for withdrawal of funds. It has given out $35 million.
Is the government waiting for people to use their own resources to rebuild their lives and homes so that they won’t have to fork out much in the end? Meanwhile, what happens to the millions they have received in donations?