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Sevele: ‘It’s the proper thing to do’

NUKUALOFA, Tonga (Matangi Tonga, Sept. 18, 2010) – Tonga is planning to make a cash contribution to the Christchurch Earthquake Appeal Fund, and to donate a container of Tongan watermelons for the people of Christchurch.

A radio-phone appeal to raise funds for a Tongan contribution to the Christchurch Earthquake Appeal Fund was announced by the Prime Minister, Dr Feleti Sevele yesterday, September 17.

He said that Cabinet had approved the allocation of NZ$500,000 [US$364,440] from the National Relief Fund to initiate Tonga's contribution, and a nation-wide radio-phone appeal to be hosted by A3Z Radio Tonga will held on Saturday, September 25.

The Prime Minister is appealing to the public to give generously and he expected that Tonga should make its contribution to the Christchurch Earthquake Appeal Fund during the first week of October.

"New Zealand has always been the first to help us whenever we are struck by a natural disaster, and therefore Government decided that it is the proper thing to do, despite our current financial constraint situation," said Dr Sevele.

The 7.1 earthquake that struck Christchurch on Saturday morning, September 4 reportedly damaged over 100,000 homes, and about 6,000 homes have been destroyed. The damaged to the city of Christchurch has been estimated to be around $4 billion.

The Secretary for the Ministry of Labour, Commerce and Industries, Moeaki Tatafu said that there are about 1000 Tongans in Christchurch, and three Tongan homes were damaged by the earthquake.

Apart from the fund raising, Afeaki from the Tongan Growers Federation announced at the meeting that the first shipment of Tongan watermelon was scheduled to leave for New Zealand on September 27, the first shipment in about six years. He said they would donate a container of watermelon to the people of Christchurch. "It would be great to slice and hand out water melon at the Square in Christchurch," said Afeaki.

A committee to manage the fund raising program is chaired by Busby Kautoke, and assisted by Afeaki from the New Zealand Business Association, and Paula Taumoepeau from the Tonga Chamber of Commerce.

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