Votes pinned on opportunities

Luisa Senibua washes clothes in a creek at Dreketi Settlement in Ra. pic. REINAL CHAND

RESIDENTS of rural settlements in Ra that were left devastated by Severe Tropical Cyclone Winston more than two years ago are preparing to cast their votes less than 20 days from now.

This group of rural dwellers now live in newly-built homes bought from Government welfare schemes, and they are looking forward to casting their vote.

A team from this newspaper travelled to the province and carried out a random survey on what would decide their vote.

We also asked people on the streets, villages and rural settlements their knowledge on the parties contesting the 2018 General Election.

Batiga settlement resident Veniana Lagabau explained that since the Category 5 cyclone, she had a newly-built home and a cassava farm that earned a decent income for her family.

“Although we don’t have electricity supply, we have water running at home,” she said. “We didn’t have that before we moved here a few years ago.

“I would like for us to have access to electricity too and I know eventually we will get that, but now we have more than what we used to have five or six years ago.

“We have a farm too that we supply cassava for an exporter. All of this was not available in our parent’s time.”

Ms Lagabau said she did not participate in the last general election, but would vote this time around.

“I know the party I will support. They have been able to give me and my family opportunities we did not have before.”

For Dreketi settlement where 82 houses were wiped out by the Category 5 storm, more than 300 residents are anticipating fresh water supply to their homes in the coming months.

“The water pipes were just delivered last week,” says Dreketi resident Sanaila Qoli who has been living at the settlement for more than 20 years.

“We’ve been having problems with water from the time I came here and now we will get water straight to our homes. Right now we are still using nearby rivers, collecting rainwater and request for water to be supplied here.

“We’ve never had water coming from a tap in our homes.

“I have a peg set up by EFL (Energy Fiji Ltd) near my home where they will set up electricity poles. That’s another event we are looking forward to. To have electricity in our home,” he said.

Mr Qoli said these developments were the deciding factor for his vote.

Not far from Mr Qoli’s residence is mother of five Luisa Senibua, who we found washing her family’s laundry in a nearby stream.

“I have five children, two in secondary school and two in primary with the youngest about to start school,” she said.

“In my time, if my parents did not have money to pay our bus fare, I would not be able to go to school that day.

“Today, even if I have no money in my pocket, my kids will still be able to go to school.

“That makes a difference for me.”

Narau settlement farmer Simione Nacaginivalu just completed the construction work on his new home in March this year. He says he was able to complete his home when the hardware supplies finally arrived.

“I have a home now,” he said.

“We have water and now I’m about to start my sugarcane farm with FSC. Things are starting to get better for me and my family. I don’t want anything to change.”

Also from Narau, Pauliasi Nacua believes his vote will be decided on election day.

“I can say something different here, but I could do something else at that polling station,” said the sugarcane farmer.

“No one can really know what I decide in that booth. There is a lot of things being said and we are hearing a lot of things from the different parties. Everyone should decide on their own who they want in government.”

As for 69-year-old Gajraj Singh, safety and security for him and his family is vital. “For me that is what I will vote for.”

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