Reports received from the Northern and Western parts of Fiji show that stricken Indian families in homes and settlements devastated by Cyclone Evan have not as yet received State assistance in any form.
Home of a farm labourer in Lautoka demolished by Cyclone Evan
Hundreds of homes in Tavua, Ba, Lautoka and Nadi areas were substantially damaged with roofs and walls blown off and all household goods damaged or destroyed, leaving the families completely vulnerable.
These families have not even been provided with food packs to keep them going. They could not leave their homes to stay in evacuation centres as they have livestock to tend to and farm implements to protect from thieves who become active immediately following natural disasters. Towns were protected from curfews but nothing was done to secure people’s belongings and properties in the rural areas.
“Somehow the attention of government officials seems to escape Indian homes and settlements. Same thing happened following the floods in January and March,” said a farmer from Drasa who suffered much damage to his home, crops and livestock in all the three natural disasters of 2012.
Similar reports have been received from Indian families in Ra, Tavua, Ba, Nadi, Sigatoka and Vanua Levu.
Residents of Uciwai, Nabila, Nalovo, Malomalo and Korovutu in Nadi inform us that government officials have not as yet visited their settlements despite damage there being quite heavy.
“There is definitely discrimination in the distribution of cyclone relief assistance,” said a resident of Nalovo who did not want to be named for fear of reprisal.
There is a glaring absence of Indian officers from the operational personnel of DISMAC. All work is done by the military under the Divisional Commissioners – civilian officials have no say, according to senior civil servants.
Commenting on these reports, Labour Leader Mahendra Chaudhry said he had received similar information and had urged the victims to complain to the District Officers in their areas.
“But this is something Indians have had to live with each time a disaster strikes. They are forgotten or put on the side as people who can look after themselves – definitely discriminatory.”
Mr Chaudhry said civil society organisations have come forward to assist and he thanked them as well as the overseas donors who are familiar with the situation in Fiji when it comes to disaster relief assistance.
“Unfortunately, aid given by the governments of Australia, New Zealand and the United States are also not fairly distributed to Indian families and their settlements,” he said.