Seruiratu has accused us of only helping members of one political party but the people we assist know differently – Sashi Kiran

Seruiratu has accused us of only helping members of one political party but the people we assist know differently – Sashi Kiran

By Shanil Singh
Sunday 13/02/2022
Image: file

FRIEND Fiji CEO Sashi Kiran says Minister for Disaster Management Inia Seruiratu has accused them of not working with his Ministry and helping members of only one political party, however thousands of people who they have helped, and those who have donated and volunteered for FRIEND know differently.

Kiran says on 9th January when flood waters rose rapidly and things began to get worse, they were told that families had not brought food to the evacuation centres.

She says they received requests from evacuation centres in Nadi, Lautoka, Ba, Nadarivatu, Nakorotubu and Sigatoka for food, sanitisers and masks.

Kiran says they usually plan ahead by pre-positioning stocks in affected areas and do not know why the National Disaster Management Office cannot do the same thing and why the NDMO only starts ordering relief supplies after the disaster as Seruiratu stated.

She says as an NGO it is hard for them to raise funds for disaster relief without the NDMO’s approval.

Kiran says they were fortunate that they received funds from the family of the late Professor Brij Lal and his family had asked people at his funeral to make donations to FRIEND.

The CEO says they dispatched supplies with all the District Officers which includes 253 packs for Lautoka, 180 for Ba, 25 for Ra, 10 for Nadarivatu, 70 for Sigatoka and 100 for Nadi.

Kiran says all the pick up and distribution was done by District Offices and they have dispatch forms signed and pictures of government officials receiving the supplies.

She also says FRIEND Fiji did not visit Ba communities at all as Seruiratu had claimed and the Minister should show evidence if he has any.

Kiran says their team remains very responsive in Nadi because they know families are struggling after the pandemic.

She says the decision on who receives food packs rests with advisory councillors and they cannot choose people based on which political party they support.

Kiran adds Seruiratu had also mentioned the Nawajikuma area where he saw a crowd during his trip on 12th January and claimed only NFP supporters were receiving food there.

She says she has checked with the advisory councillor in the areas and he has told Kiran that two other charities distributed food in the area.

Kiran says she had called Seruiratu on that day to discuss the situation however he did not answer or call back.

She says after Seruiratu’s claims, hopefully the affected people would now realize why they ask them to come through advisory councillors before they can mobilize to assist after each disaster.

Kiran says Seruiratu has worked closely with FRIEND when he was Minister of Agriculture and if he has a problem with FRIEND, then he has Kiran’s phone number.

She says they did not hear anything wrong until Seruiratu spoke in Parliament.

Kiran says communities in the west have suffered badly over the past weeks and Seruiratu needs to inform the people when they will get assistance instead of being petty.

Seruiratu had earlier told us that his comments were aimed at the NFP and not FRIEND because he knows the work FRIEND does and they are a key partner when it comes to humanitarian work.

He also questioned why FRIEND has been distributing food outside of the areas allocated by the Commissioner Western.

We have sent further questions to Seruiratu regarding the recent comments by Kiran.

He is yet to respond.

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