Murder, Drugs, Threats, Methodists, Gold; Detailed Hurricane Updates and Lessons from the Past

  • Short briefs
  • Detailed Hurricane updates
  • Lessons from Past Hurricanes: Government Action Needed 
Photo. Vatukoula gold mine.

Conspiracy to Murder Trial. FijiVillage provides this useful link to numerous items on the Assassination plot to kill PM Bainimarama. It's also worth bookmarking for later reference. 

Fiji's suspension from regional and international bodies, including meetings of Pacific Police Chiefs, is proving to be an "overwhelming barrier" to addressing illicit drug issues, and their relationship with HIV and domestic violence.

The threats continue.  A warning from Tears for Fiji, an Anti-Government blogger, to Bainimarama: "Your children and your grandchildren will PAY! Mark our may not be around to see them suffer the consequences of your selfish actions, but they WILL! God works in Mysterious ways!"

Some 130 Methodist senior ministers and officils will meet PM Bainimarama on Wednesday, when they will seek some lifting of restrictions on meetings. The restrictions were imposed because government said the church was being used for political purposes.

Gold used to be Fiji's third most important export earner, after sugar and garments, until production ceased in 2006. This year, with new owners, the revitalised Vatukoula mine sold more than 15,000 oz of gold, worth £4.6m, in the three months ending in February, up from 8,826oz in the previous three months. Ultimately, the company aims to produce at least 100,000 oz a year as the result of a major drilling and redevelopment programme.  The mine employs over 600 local workers and has a proven resource of over 4.3m oz. For a an aerial video around Vatukoula, click here.

Detailed Hurricane Updates

Bainimarama thanks foreign governments. "I wish to thank the governments of Australia, New Zealand and France for their assistance. I understand other countries have shown their willingness to assist in the rehabilitation and re lief work, which would be forthcoming once detailed assessments have been carried out."
Click  here.

The official death tolls is unchanged at three. Overseas tourists earlier deemed missing in the North and East have now all been accounted for.

Red Cross praises government. Fiji Red Cross's Alison Cupit  said she was "absolutely delighted with the way the public authority responded and worked with Disaster Management Committee. Since 1993 this is the best response and coordination effort I have seen."  She also commended the PM's declaration of a state of disaster in the Northern and Eastern Divisions [that saw a] swift response from our neighbors and donors alike.... Before on many occasions there was no communication between Red Cross and other relevant authorities and work would take ages to be finished," she said.

Hurricane Costs. The Disaster Management Office (DISMAC) expects an estimate of the cost of damage to be ready by next week.  The areas most affected were Cikobia, Vanua Levu, Lomaiviti, and Northern and Central Lau. Over 300 houses have been destroyed. The Works Ministry estimates that at least $3m will be needed to repair infrastructure damaged in the Northern Division. Extra earth-moving machinery has already been despatched to the North Division, and Vanuabalavu, Cicia and Lakeba in the northern Lau group.

A Hotline  (Phone 3683042) for Farmers has been opened by the Ministry of Agriculture from 8am to midnight daily. Permanent Secretary, Mason Smith, encouraged farmers to use planting materials they had while awaiting Government help. The Ministry is focusing on short-term crops to help normalize the food supply ASAP, and has started distributing seeds and planting materials to farmers affected by the hurricane that destroyed crops on Vanua Levu, Taveuni, Lomaiviti and Lau.

Thousands of damaged yaqona plants have been lifted for early sale at low prices in Vanua Levu. Yaqona can be harvested after one year but is best left for five or six years. It is grown over most of Fiji but in Vanua Levu most growers are in Cakaudrove tikina, that includes south Taveuni. The destruction will mean many families will be without a major cash crop for several years. Other food crops such as bananas and cassava will take 6-9 months to recover.
Australian and NZ relief supplies, including tarpaulins, tents, blankets, 10-litre water containers and water purification tablets, have been ferried to Vanua Levu by a Consort Shipping vessel, and to Lau and Lomaiviti by the government vessels Iloivatu and Raiyawa. Earlier, relief supplies on government vessel Kula eached Cikobia, to the north of Vanua Levu, which was the island first hit by the hurricane. Agriculture Officer Nacanieli Takele reported more damage to crops than to houses on island. A pleasing feature of the tragedy is the way Australia and NZ have worked closely with the Fiji government and the Fiji Red Cross. 

The local Cyclone Appeal had raised $68,543 by Saturday.  The total includes a donation of $50,000 by the ANZ Bank and $15,000 by the Fiji Times. Fiji Broadcasting and Save the Children Fiji organized a Concert of Hope in Albert Park, Suva, on Saturday to raise funds to help children affected by the hurricane.

Schools with no roofs. Students of Uciwai District School in Keteira, Moala, Lau will have to start school this week in a badly damaged building. Teachers and the School Committee have managed to rebuild one classroom and the restroom. Meanwhile the Education Ministry is sending stationery and school supplies to the Lau group where 21 schools were extensively damaged.

Disease Threat. With piped water damaged, freshwater supplied contaminated by sea water, and rain-soaked ground leaving higher water tables allowing seepage from damaged toilets and septic tanks in areas most affected by the hurricane, health inspectors have been on the ground from Day One attempting to ram home the message that safety of water supplies, general village cleanliness, boiled drinking water and personal hygiene are key factors in the health of hurricane-affected communities. An outbreak of disease will be catastrophic for the people burdened by rehabilitation work and health officials who must operate from damaged facilities with limited supplies.  With pools of stagnant water, piles of rubbish, fallen trees and leaves, the potential for dengue-carrying mosquitoes to breed is also enormous.

(B) Lesson from Past Hurricances:
Building Codes Need to Apply to Villages
"Jon's" valuable comment to an earlier post on the hurricane

"In the mid 80’s, after cyclones Eric and Nigel, Fiji’s National Building Code and the Fiji House Building Manual were drawn up in an attempt to mitigate the damage caused by future cyclones.

The Code and Manual are loosely based on the Australian and New Zealand building codes, including Australian wind and NZ seismic codes. Both are easy to read, liberally undispersed with sketches for easy understanding and, just as importantly, are cheap to buy.

The preamble to the House Building Manual notes “…we have tried to retain… the current local building practices. We have also tried to ensure that the use of the Manual does not contribute to any material increase in the cost of houses. Where there is marginal increase it will be substantially offset by an increase in the safety and durability of the house.”

However, we still read stories such as “Only cyclone proof homes left standing on Cikobia” – 20  years after the Code was introduced. The reason is simple – no government of the day has made it a requirement for the Code to be compulsory in Fijian villages. In fact in many acts relating to building, such as the Health Act and Environment Act, Fijian villages are specifically excluded.

If this government intends to make fuller use of productive land by way of its land reforms, one of the starting points will be to include all Fijian villages and squatter settlements in the legislation designed for everyone’s protectionBuilding Code, Health Act and Environment Act. District Officers should then be responsible for ensuring that all new buildings erected in villages are inspected to ensure compliance with the code.

In this way villagers (as most of us in urban areas already are) can be spared the trauma of losing their homes and having to start from scratch, which just reinforces the cycle of poverty." 

P.S. For readers less familiar with Fiji, formal and informal ethnic Fijian villages  are excluded from health and other regulations applied to urban areas, even when the villages are "urban" to most intents and purposes.

They have been excluded by the simple expedient of drawing town boundaries to exclude these urban villages. Nowhere is this better seen than in the string of villages between Nadi town and airport, and in Lami to the west of Suva, where town boundaries weave back and forth to exclude traditional and informal villages. -- Croz.


Rendering to Caesar said…
The meeting with the Methodists is a good thing but I rather doubt that things will change after it. Frank is likely to give them a piece of his mind, such is his distaste for the way he perceives the church to have strayed from its spiritual mission into politics. Let's face it. The Methodist Church is Fiji is the SDL at prayer. They've admitted as much in the past and have been the driving force behind indigenous extremism. Love to be a fly on the wall at that meeting. Frank is certain to give it to them, whatever bland announcement comes from the hierarchy afterwards. The ghosts of past Methodist presidents who stood for multiracialism like Setareki Tuilovoni, Paula Nuikula, Peter Davis and Dan Mustapha will be hovering over the gathering, that's for sure. Their successors have trashed a noble inheritance.
Dua tale na bilo said…
So there'll be a kava glut followed by a kava shortage. Can't say I'm too concerned about any of it, except perhaps for the poor people who depend on it for a living. Let's face it. Grog has become a curse in Fiji. Any Fijian woman will tell you it's the bane of her existence. And thank God it's been banned from government departments. When the wretched tanoa used to sit in the corner and bilo were passed around all day, it's a wonder the country ever functioned at all. Come to think of it, it didn't. Yaqona ought to be restricted to traditional ceremonies, not used as a recreational narcotic like the Jamaican Rastafarians use dope. Imagine Colonel Leweni wiith clear eyes and a clear head?No, you're right. Pass me another one.
Mucho milamila said…
The problem with any yaqona shortage in Fiji is that importing the stuff from somewhere like Vanuatu could make things much worse. If you've ever visited a "nakamel" In Port Vila, you'll know what I mean. Dynamite! Two or three bilo and you're gone. If Fijians get a taste for the foreign stuff, kemudou. Not only will be Fiji growers be broke, the place will cease to function at all.

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