When home is not a palace

Quarters at the Nasau Government Station. Picture: JONA KONATACI

Quarters at the Nasau Government Station. Picture: JONA KONATACI

FROM a distance it looks like an old shack.

As the sun set towards the western side of the island, it is apparent the house has been seemingly deserted for a while, walls not painted and even almost falling off from its frames.

There appears to be missing windows on one side, and on the other side, a piece of roofing iron is mounted on the wall. A piece of tarpaulin blankets the top of the house to act as a roof and beside this run-down house, a few men play volleyball.

In between the volleyball court and this wooden house is the foundation of a house left as a reminder of the force of mother nature.

Then all of a sudden a young child runs out of the house. Children being who they are, it would seem this is one of their favourite playing spots. Then another child comes out followed a woman probably in her 40s.

The woman was the child’s mother and much to my surprise, and this run-down house houses a government official serving on the island of Koro.

Two years after Severe Tropical Cyclone made landfall, the government quarters remain just how it had been since the monstrous cyclone wreaked havoc across the island on February 20, 2016.

It seems they have been forgotten.

And that is not only the government quarters that needs maintenance. For two years these government officials have worked tirelessly with regards to rehabilitation works on the island trying to rebuild and improve the lives of the islanders. That’s part of their job.

They do not talk about nor dwell on some of the difficulties they face. However, one can tell they try to perform their duties to the best of their abilities while at the same time worrying about their own family members.

“You talk to The Fiji Times, you turn 55 tomorrow,” one government official joked about. They say they can’t complain neither vent their frustration to the media, but have to take it up with relevant authorities.

Yet more than 20 months later, there has been no word from the relevant authorities.

There is no emergency operation centre, let alone there is no government office on the island compared with the government station in Qarani, Gau where there is a government office. Evidently villagers visit these government officials in their homes, so there is not much privacy for the officials and their families.

The police station which is used as an emergency operations centre is not up to standard as only a section of the roof has proper roof structures while the other side is covered by tarpaulin – allowing rain to seep in.

In February there were reports that marijuana seized from the island and were kept in the station to be transferred to Suva were stolen.

While these government official’s continue with their work they can only hope their situation will improve which will definitely boost their work.

Last month, only one government vehicle from the Fiji Police Force was servicing an island with more than 3000 people. It is believed the Ministry of Agriculture official has just been given a vehicle so that makes two vehicles.

But Ministry of Health officials do not have a vehicle, they have to rely on the Fiji Police force vehicle for transportation and to serve an island with an areas of more than 100 square kilometres.

Nacamaki Village headman Salesitino Naqarase claims a villager, who had developed fever-like symptoms in February, might have fared differently had there been an ambulance or Ministry of Health vehicle on the island. He said when medical officials arrived the day after they were summoned, the man had passed away.

Maybe one of the 30 ambulances that was given by the Chinese Government early this year could make its way to Koro Island, and ensure there is no repeat of a similar case.

The Fiji Times has been informed that government officials have visited the Nacamaki Nursing Station with the scope of works done so the upgrade should start soon.

Questions sent to relevant authorities, since February and the latest reminder last week, remain unanswered.

Definitely run-down but not forgotten, please remember them in the next phase of rehabilitation works.

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