Fiji government urged to reconsider NZ$5.3 million office for PM

Chantelle Khan
Fiji's Chantelle Khan, of the Social Education Empowerment Programme (SEEP), with Sashi Kiran, of the Foundation for Rural Integrated Enterprises and Development (FRIEND) and Shamima Ali of the Women's Crisis Centre. Image: RNZ/SEEP/Facebook

By RNZ Pacific

Plans for spending NZ$5.3 on construction of the Fiji Prime Minister’s new office should be diverted to people affected by the covid-19 coronavirus pandemic, civil society groups say.

The groups, which form the Civil Society Organisation Alliance for Covid-19 Humanitarian Response, said requests they had received for assistance from families prompted them to urge the government to reconsider the construction.

Director of the Social Empowerment and Education Programme (SEEP) Chantelle Khan said children needed to be cared for during the crisis.

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“The F$7.4m (NZ$5.3m) that’s supposed to go to the PM’s Office – give all of it to the future generation of this country and to our elderly. Our Social Welfare recipients and our children who need to be fed,” she said.

Khan also called for the government to work with stakeholders for the betterment of the country. This would reflect a democratic government that cared for its people, she said.

“We need to work together, so please relocate this funding to children who are unable to be fed by their families because of the impact of this pandemic.”

The alliance includes the Women’s Rights Movement (FWRM), the Social Education Empowerment Programme (SEEP), the Foundation for Rural Integrated

Enterprises and Development (FRIEND), the Women’s Crisis Centre, FemLink Pacific and the Citizens Constitutional Forum (CCF).

Shamima Ali of the Women’s Crisis Centre said Fiji was not “out of the woods yet” and that there was a dire need in community for the money devoted to the office.

Humanitarian centre opens
People in the Western Division whose lives have been affected by the pandemic can now access basic assistance from the Alliance’s Humanitarian Response Centre in Navakai, Nadi.

Opposition MP Lenora Qereqeretabua at the new centre in Nadi.
Opposition MP Lenora Qereqeretabua at the new centre in Nadi. Image: RNZ/NFP/Facebook

The centre opened last week and is the brainchild of Fiji’s largest NGO, Then India Sanmarga Ikya Sangam (TISI Sangam), to establish a one-stop shop in the west that provides school lunches for children.

TISI Sangam president Sadasivan Naicker said the centre was timely because it would assist Fijians who had lost their jobs as a result of the pandemic.

“We have branches all over Fiji and with the manpower we have, we can help in this programme to make it successful,” Naicker told The Fiji Times.

“We are in a better position and this is the first time we have forged such a partnership with the NGOs and we look forward to this.”

The Foundation for Rural Integrated Enterprises and Development (FRIEND) said there was a need to establish the centre because it would make work easier for people who needed assistance.

FRIEND director Sashi Kiran said in recent months, more than 40 percent of its food bank applicants were from Nadi.

Kiran said they were mostly people who had no employment as a result of the pandemic.

The centre will also distribute seedlings, facilitate training, and provide counselling and legal services.

This article is republished by the Pacific Media Centre under a partnership agreement with RNZ.

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