SUVA, Fiji (Dec. 31) - In times of stress people look to their leaders for guidance and at times even inspiration. Faced with extreme difficulty, be it physical or emotional, we expect our leaders to give direction. But while the nation has responded with generosity of spirit as well as finance to the plight of the many millions of people who continue to suffer in the wake of the tsunami that has ravaged southern Asia, our government has stood apart.

It argues that it is not needed, that the people of Fiji are responding magnificently without government support or interference. That, of course, is true. But the Government has misread the mood of the people. Fiji today looks for a national rallying point, a focus for the many efforts underway to help the stricken.

And what better group to assume that role than our elected leaders? As things stand, the aid effort risks becoming fragmented, though it may be no less effective for that. But the Government has missed an opportunity to present itself as a force for unity. By that we do not intend that the Government could have used the Asian tragedy in a political sense – but it could have provided leadership in the aid effort.

For example, tax concessions for donations above a certain amount would have cost little but would have turbocharged the private sector and non-government organization efforts to raise cash and goods to help the victims. For this tragedy of world proportions has gripped the minds and hearts of the people of Fiji as it has done all over the globe.

Everywhere people are awed by the sheer enormity of the disaster. Most want to help in whatever small way they can. But without a focal point, which the Government can best provide, their yearning to assist does not always turn into action.

For those who do want to help, this newspaper recommends and supports the efforts of the Red Cross. Money can be donated at its offices in Gorrie Street Suva or can be deposited in the Indian Ocean Earthquake/Tsunami account number 9800973548 at any Westpac branch. The death toll is now likely to exceed 60,000 with the homeless in the uncountable millions.

They need our help.

December 31, 2004


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