Curfew safety uproar in Fiji as TC Ana strikes – Soko apologises for decision

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Naqali Bridge, Fiji 200121
The flooded Naqali bridge in Naitasiri on Saturday. Image: Jonacani Lalakobau/Fiji Times


By Luke Rawalai in Suva

Fiji’s national curfew enforced by the National Disaster Management Office (NDMO) on Friday evening has been dubbed as thoughtless and the “height of stupidity”.

National Federation Party president Pio Tikoduadua said it showed the government’s “disconnect with reality”.

“When NDMO director announced the imposition of a curfew, she said it was with the concurrence of the Prime Minister,” said Tikoduadua.

The NDMO said a 49-year-old man had drowned and five people were missing, including a three-year-old boy from Lautoka.

Tikoduadua said: “Fiji has never, in 50 years, imposed a curfew before a cyclone because we have always relied on the good sense of our people to look after themselves and each other in natural disasters.

“After the weekend curfew announcement, there was panic buying and selling of goods while hundreds of farmers and market vendors rushed to sell their goods at a loss because their weekend business was destroyed.

“As far as we know, the curfew was not lawful because no legal steps were taken under the NDMO Act to support it and certainly government did not say they had taken any.”

Government ‘completely isolated’
Tikoduadua said the government failed to think strategically because it was completely isolated from the people.

“The people of Fiji are finding it increasingly hard to believe that this disorganised bunch of people, who just make it up as they go along, is really their government,” he said.

“They need to remember these events the next time they go to the polls.”

NDMO director Vasiti Soko apologised to the public over the change to nationwide curfew hours.

The curfew hours have reverted to the daily 11pm to 4am window after a shift in the projected path of TC Ana. On Friday, the hours had been changed by Soko in the Western Division to 12pm Saturday to 6am on Monday, February 1, 2020.

Curfew hours for the Central, Eastern and Northern Divisions, were to have begun from 4pm Saturday until 4am on Monday.

Soko said every decision made by the office was in consultation with the Fiji Meteorological Service and other stakeholders committed to ensure the safety of all citizens.

Apologies for the ‘inconvenience’
“We apologise for the inconvenience caused as the analysis we received yesterday [Friday] entitled that an announcement should be made and due to the revisions made today [yesterday] on the path of the cyclone, the Emergency Committee decided to revert the curfew hours,” she said.

She said there was no way to predict the path and nature of a cyclone and NDMO would continue to make decisions based on the current situation.

“As of when the weather calls for a decision, then it will be made, but as it is, we will continue to update the public about all the restrictions and movements.”

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Luke Rawalai is a Fiji Times reporter.

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