Anal­y­sis: Def­i­nite link be­tween dis­as­ters, pol­i­tics

Fiji Sun - - Front Page - by Ne­mani De­laibatiki Edited by Ru­si­ate Mataika Feed­back: ne­mani.de­laibatiki@fi­jisun.com.fj

Cy­clone Win­ston may have long gone, but its im­pact will still be felt come 2018 – through the bal­lot box. Many in­ter­na­tional stud­ies have shown that there are po­lit­i­cal im­pli­ca­tions of nat­u­ral dis­as­ters. No mat­ter how much we try to separate pol­i­tics from re­lief and re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion work in the wake of nat­u­ral dis­as­ters, it’s the peo­ple or the vot­ers who will have the fi­nal say in the gen­eral elec­tion.

Dis­as­ters hurt all Fi­jians, the poor, rich, busi­nesses and work­ers. It’s how the Gov­ern­ment of the day re­sponds to re­lief and re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion of the dev­as­tated that shapes peo­ple’s opin­ions and judg­ment. Some peo­ple will al­ways blame Gov­ern­ment for their suf­fer­ing in a dis­as­ter even though it has no con­trol of it. But they are known to have changed their po­si­tion when re­lief sup­plies ar­rive im­me­di­ately af­ter a nat­u­ral dis­as­ter fol­lowed by re­build­ing sup­plies. Dis­as­ters should be one of the few times that Fi­jians from each side of the po­lit­i­cal di­vide tend to come to­gether. They put aside their po­lit­i­cal bi­ases and work to­gether for the com­mon good.

Ini­tially, anti-Gov­ern­ment forces crit­i­cised the set­ting up of the Prime Min­is­ter’s Dis­as­ter Re­lief and Re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion Fund. Their po­lit­i­cal par­ties may live to re­gret that stand. The SODELPA par­lia­men­tary cau­cus re­alised that it is po­lit­i­cal sui­cide to start crit­i­cis­ing Gov­ern­ment’s na­tional re­lief ef­forts. What it needed to do was join it. It prompted SODELPA MPs to col­lect $73,000 and Op­po­si­tion leader Ro Tei­mumu Kepa do­nated the cheque to Prime Min­is­ter Voreqe Bain­i­marama. That was a smart move al­though it was crit­i­cised by some se­nior party of­fi­cials. Ro Tei­mumu must have re­ceived sound ad­vice to go ahead and do it. The worst that can hap­pen is to be seen as try­ing to frus­trate Gov­ern­ment ef­forts. When the cur­rent mo­men­tum is with the Gov­ern­ment, it is po­lit­i­cally more prof­itable to pig­gy­back on it. The party can be seen as sup­port­ing the na­tional in­ter­est and could pick up votes from un­de­cided vot­ers. Rather than tak­ing a con­fronta­tion stance, the party must also in­spire those who are suf­fer­ing to re­gain the con­fi­dence they need, to move for­ward. Mr Bain­i­marama, has been ex­em­plary in in­spir­ing vic­tims of Cy­clone Win­ston to adopt a pos­i­tive at­ti­tude. The Gov­ern­ment ini­tia­tives like Help for Homes, Adopt a School and Adopt a Vil­lage have res­onated well with the peo­ple. How lead­ers re­spond to Cy­clone

Win­ston re­lief and re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion, can de­ter­mine how the pub­lic sees them in the years to come. A re­search shows dis­as­ters pro­vide a mo­ment in the spot­light, when vot­ers can see with un­usual clar­ity who is act­ing on their be­half.

It says “as vot­ers, are we ab­solved of the charge of re­spond­ing ir­ra­tionally to nat­u­ral dis­as­ters?” “The ev­i­dence sug­gests that the an­swer is “yes,” at least if the ques­tion is about dis­as­ter re­sponses.

“But nat­u­ral dis­as­ters aren’t just about re­spond­ing —they are also about plan­ning and prepa­ra­tion. And there, the ev­i­dence is less san­guine about our ca­pac­ity as vot­ers to re­ward politi­cians for act­ing in our in­ter­ests.” So for those par­ties that have come for­ward and sup­ported the Gov­ern­ment in its Cy­clone Win­ston re­build­ing and re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion, it’s an in­vest­ment in their fu­ture po­lit­i­cal for­tunes.

Mr Bain­i­marama has been ex­em­plary in in­spir­ing vic­tims of Cy­clone Win­ston to adopt a pos­i­tive at­ti­tude. The Gov­ern­ment ini­tia­tives like Help for Homes, Adopt a School and Adopt a Vil­lage have res­onated well with the peo­ple.

Work­ing to­gether for a com­mon cause. Prime Min­is­ter Voreqe Bain­i­marama re­ceives a cheque do­na­tion from the Op­po­si­tion Leader Ro Tei­mumu Kepa.

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