Residents severely affected by Tropical Cyclone Winston in the north-west of VitiLevu have received desperately needed relief supplies during a three day tour of the region by the Attorney-General, Hon Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum.
The AG fanned out across a wide area with two other Government ministers – the Minister for Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation. Hon. Rosy Akbar, and the Minister for Local Government, Housing and Environment, Infrastructure and Transport, Hon Parveen Kumar.
They distributed a large portion of the 10,000 food packs that have been donated to the cyclone relief effort by two of Fiji’s biggest companies – CJ Patel and Punja and Sons. They also began the distribution of a large number of kitchen utensils donated by R.C Manubhai.
The AG’s tour took in cyclone-ravaged areas of Raviravi, Karavi and Yalalevu, (Ba) on Friday, Korobuya, Nabutini, Busabusa and Veisaru (Ba) and Korovou (Tavua) on Saturday, and Nadhari, and Navia (Ba) on Sunday.
In addition, Minister Akbar visitedMaruru, Yalalevu, Clopcott ,Nukulua, Vatuvui and Sarava. And Minister Kumar visited Veisaru, Veitiyaka, Qerelevu, Nakavika, Nabatolu, Itatoko, Korovutu and Navoli.
It was the first time many of those affected by Cyclone Winston had received any form of assistance since it cut a swathe through the region a week ago. And residents expressed their relief and thanks to the AG and the two other Minsters.
An emotional Teja Singh, who is a 71-year-old farmer in the Raviravi area of Ba, said he had lost all his belongings in the cyclone and was very grateful to have finally received some assistance.
“No-one has visited us until now and I am very happy to see you”, he told the AG, “ I have lived here all my life but have nothing left. All my possessions are gone and my sugar cane has been damaged. We desperately need help so thank you for coming with this food”, he said.
Another resident, Naushad Ali, said that of all the cyclones in his lifetime, Winston was the worst.“ It is the first time that I have seen a cyclone cause so much damage. Everything is still wet and our things are ruined. Please help us,” he pleaded.
Vijayanti Mala also warmly thanked the AG for the assistance he had brought and said it meant a great deal to her and her family.
“Our roof blew away and nothing much is left. We all desperately need help. My son is getting married soon but my kitchen has been damaged. How am I going to prepare for the wedding?”, she asked.
The AG said all Fijians must stay united as the relief effort continues and help each other through the challenge of the coming weeks and months.
“ It is critical that we all come together as a nation at this time. It is the only way we are going to put this tragedy behind us quickly. Many of the people we were able to help are Fijians who had fallen through the cracks of the relief effort so far. We have to keep improving the delivery of food water and adequate shelter. We cannot leave anyone behind. So I appeal to everyone to highlight areas of acute need so that the Government can step in and provide prompt assistance”, he said.
CJ Patel has donated 5000 food packs valued at $232,000 and Punja and Sons another 5000 valued at $129,000 to assist the relief effort. R.C Manubhai have donated kitchen utensils to the value of $15,000 and mattresses and roofing supplies worth another $20,000.
The AG warmly thanked all three companies for their contribution to alleviating the plight of cyclone victims.
“Fijian companies are responding magnificently to our call for assistance and I want to pay tribute to CJ Patel,Punja and Sons, R.C Manubhai and all those other companies who are being exemplary corporate citizens by supporting their fellow Fijians in this crisis”, he said.
Bula vinaka and a good afternoon my fellow Fijians.
Tropical Cyclone Winston has moved far to the west of our shores and is a lot weaker than it was when it hit Fiji. However, we are still experiencing heavy rain throughout our islands, and should remain on high alert for flooding in low-lying areas.
While the worst of the storm is behind us, Winston has left a terrible trail of destruction in its wake. In response, our relief effort is in full swing. We are spreading out all over the country, identifying areas of need and doing everything in our power to provide our people with relief supplies and assistance as fast as we can.
Our response is coordinated and involves our disaster management officials, the RFMF and the police. And I would like to pay tribute to our friends in the region and around the world, along with our local businesses and ordinary Fijians, who are rallying to our assistance in our hour of need. On behalf of the Fijian people, vinaka vakalevu. Thank you.
We’ve received an enormous amount of interest from Fijians here and abroad, and others who recognize our dire circumstances, wanting to provide assistance. We need to make sure that your donations go to the right people. Therefore, all donations must go through our National Disaster Management Office. From there, we can determine how best to deliver these funds where they are needed most and ensure that they are coordinated at a national level.
All overseas donations will be duty and VAT exempt. Donors simply need to obtain a letter from NDMO. So please, reach out to our National Coordinator to receive all the necessary approvals to avoid undue charges.
The need is great and it is also urgent. Every Government agency is working together to deliver aid where it is needed, speedily and efficiently. We cannot afford bureaucratic obstruction and delay. We also need to avoid duplication in the provision of services. So I ask all of the various non-government organisations, religious bodies and community groups who are involved in this effort to go through the NDMO to ensure we get this assistance to the people who need it most.
Unfortunately the recovery process will take time. Perhaps a long time. Almost no part of our nation has been left unscarred. And many of our rural and maritime areas bore the brunt of Winston’s fury. But we are working around the clock to address the needs of our people and whoever you are in Fiji, wherever you are in Fiji, we are doing our best to reach you.
We realise the desperate position that you are in. We realise how traumatic this is for you and your families. And we ask for your patience and understanding. But as Prime Minister, I also want you to know that we will not rest until we have reached you and given you the helping hand you so badly need and deserve.
We have already made a degree of progress in alleviating this crisis. We’ve identified downed power lines and have begun repairing our fallen towers. Power has been restored to some areas, but in others – including our Western Division – damage to our power network is extensive and repairs will take considerable time.
Our international airlines have resumed service, as well as on major domestic routes. Our tourism industry has weathered this storm and the vast majority of our hotels and tourism services are fully operational. Repairs to our schools are underway, because I believe it is important to get our students back to school as soon as possible.
Medical teams and assessment teams have been deployed throughout our islands to provide emergency health services, identify further needs and begin responding – including in our affected maritime areas. We also have also been distributing food rations wherever Fijians have demonstrated an urgent need for assistance.
The destruction caused by this cyclone has also put many Fijians in a tight spot financially. So the Ministry of Finance has met with the banking industry to develop assistance packages. Banks have given assurances that existing client’s loans can be restructured in light of these events. In addition, the Association of Banks in Fiji this Friday will release a new product that will allow Fijians to take out unsecured loans to repair their homes at interest rates below 5% over a five year term. These loans can be applied for over the next three months and final details will be released this Thursday.
FNPF is also making $1000 available to its members for immediate disaster relief, with an additional $5000 available for home repairs. For those who have experienced even greater damage, the FNPF will also offer greater assistance through the housing allocation fund so that you can rebuild your homes and put this disaster behind you as soon as possible.
In the coming days, I will also make an announcement regarding a specific package to assist those who have lost their homes or whose homes have been damaged and need repairs.
Many of our other sectors still require substantial assessment before we can implement appropriate responses. But right now, the priority is on restoring essential services, and supplying our people with sufficient food, water and shelter.
To keep everyone updated on Government’s recovery efforts, the Minister for National Disaster Management will be giving situation reports twice daily at 9:00 am and 4:00 pm. Please listen in because these reports will contain valuable information to get Fiji back on its feet.
My fellow Fijians, I promised you this would be a time of action. It has been and it will be. It is time for Fiji to fight back, a time to stand together as one people and rebuild our beloved country. Over the coming weeks, our resolve and tenacity will be sorely tested. But it is a challenge the Fijian people are more than capable of meeting.
I urge you all to do all you can to assist your fellow Fijians, follow Government’s instructions and put the needs of the less fortunate first during this recovery process. We have suffered a terrible blow and our hearts go out especially to those who have lost family members. But the Fijian spirit is alive and well and together, we will rebuild our great nation.
God bless you all and God bless Fiji. Vinaka vakalevu. Thank you.
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MEDIA RELEASE: GOVERNMENT EXPANDS COVERAGE OF IMPORTANT TELEVISED EVENTS WITH NEW DECREE
The Attorney-General and Minister for Communications, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, said that the Television (Cross-Carriage of Designated Events) Decree 2014 puts an end to the old system that allowed a single broadcaster to purchase exclusive rights for the coverage of important events. “Many Fijians – especially amongst the poor and marginalised – do not have access to subscription television or even to all three free-to-air television stations. They might only receive one or two stations depending on where they live or what kind of antenna they have,” the Attorney-General explained.
The Attorney-General said that the Bainimarama Government does not want those who cannot afford a subscription television service like SKY or who do not have access to all of the free-to-air channels to miss out on important programming. “This new law ends discrimination between viewers and ensures that more Fijians will be able to watch all these important events,” he said.
“Under the new law, everybody who has access to at least one free-to-air station – FBC, Fiji TV or Mai TV – will now be able to view coverage of the designated events,” he said. The Attorney-General said the law will apply to all different kinds of programming, but that the biggest impact will be on boosting the coverage of major sporting events. “The Bainimarama Government understands how much ordinary Fijians care about sports and we are pleased that this new law will give coverage of top sporting events to many people who have never had it before,” he said. He explained that under the Decree free-to-air television broadcasters must share the cost of the rights to the designated events. The amount each has to pay is in direct proportion to its share of the market.
“We will be buying the rights to these events as a nation, rather than as individual companies. This means that all Fijians now have a right to see all these events,” he said. “Countries such as Australia, India, and Singapore have similar legislation, which has proven to be an effective way to maintain fair market conduct and effective competition in their broadcast industries, as well as to ensure the availability of a comprehensive range of quality television services,” he said. The Attorney-General said that the market share of each of Fiji’s free-to-air television stations has been based on an independent viewership and listenership survey conducted by Clarus Research Group, an internationally-respected survey research firm based in Washington, D.C.
The survey will be made public and posted on Fijian Government’s website – www.fiji.gov.fj – and the Department of Communication’s website – www.communications.gov.fj.