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NGOCHR: Humane And Improved Planning Needed For Disaster Response

The NGO Coalition on Human Rights (NGOCHR) is concerned with the use of powers to enforce nation-wide curfew hours without proper processes and consultations.

Fiji’s National Disaster and Management Office (NDMO) released an initial statement yesterday with new curfew hours as Fiji braced itself for Tropical Cyclone Ana. The Western Division curfew was from 12 pm Saturday, January 30 till 4 am Monday, February 1. For the Central, Eastern and Northern Divisions, the curfew was from 4 pm Saturday till 4 am Monday.

At midday today, the Fiji NDMO announced that the curfew has been revised back to the 11 pm- 4 am time period.

The NGOCHR is disappointed with the lack of clarity in the TC response considering that Fiji has faced several cyclones every year. People need to have accurate and clear information, particularly during these times.

The new curfew hours were announced late and as we’ve seen from social media and news reports, mass panic-buying ensued. Vendors and business owners were forced to re-strategise so that they could operate within the new curfew hours.

TC Ana will be the third cyclone to impact Fiji in 10 months, following TC Yasa in December 2020 and TC Harold in April. This, amidst the Coronavirus pandemic and the active national measures in place such as the 11 pm-4 am curfew.

The COVID-19 pandemic was an unprecedented emergency whereas there are already proper protocols in place for the State’s response to Natural Disasters. Fiji’s Natural Disaster Management Act 1998 ensures this exercise of power for emergencies but there needs to be adequate justification and a proper legal process on why a longer curfew period is necessary for the event of a natural disaster.

The NGOCHR highlights Fiji’s commitment to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) that acknowledges that there may be a restriction of rights to address exceptional situations. However, these emergency powers must be exercised as a temporary measure with the purpose of returning to normalcy as soon as possible.

The public needs to have confidence that the proper authorities and government are well prepared for natural disasters. As Fiji prepares to face the incoming TC Ana, the NGOCHR strongly urges authorities and the government to ensure that disaster responses are more effectively coordinated through a comprehensive gender-responsive and human rights-based approach.

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