National DRM Bill tabled in Parliament

Caption: Minister for Rural and Maritime Development and Disaster Management Hon. Sakiasi Ditoka addressing Parliament during the tabling of the National Disaster Risk Management Bill 2024 in Parliament earlier today.

The National Disaster Risk Management Bill was tabled in Parliament today by the Minister for Rural and Maritime Development and Disaster Management, Hon. Sakiasi R Ditoka.

The Bill was tabled under Standing Order 51 for referral to the Standing Committee on Justice, Law and Human Rights.

Work on the review of the Natural Disaster Management Act 1998 began under the leadership of the current Leader of the Opposition, Hon. Inia Seruiratu, who was then the Minister for Disaster Management.

The review is a culmination of over a decade-long review process, marked by extensive consultations and the incorporation of lessons learned from past disasters, including the recent COVID-19 pandemic.

While tabling the Bill, Hon. Ditoka emphasised that this legislation provided the crucial legal framework needed to protect our people from the devastating impacts of disasters.

“The primary reason for the urgency required in tabling the National Disaster Risk Management Bill 2024 through Standing Order 51 is the unpredictability of hazards that we are now facing and the unprecedented damage and losses that they incur on our economy and society in general. One clear indication is of the recent flooding in the Serua area last week,” Hon. Ditoka said.

“Furthermore, the COVID 19 pandemic that swept through the country in 2019 and the back-to-back Tropical Cyclones of Yasa and Ana in 2021 ha put pressure into our already fragile environment. These were extraordinary in terms of their nature and frequency and stretched our disaster management capabilities to the limit. There have been gaps identified in inter-agency coordination and responsibilities that needed to be urgently addressed, to enable effective and efficient disaster risk management and the timely saving of lives and livelihoods.”

The Bill refines our disaster risk management governance arrangements to ensure that there is clarity and efficiency in the way we respond to the new hazards and disasters we are now facing.

The Bill, Hon. Ditoka highlighted, was also completely contextualised to Fiji’s unique needs while at the same time aligned Fiji to international standards and best practices as outlined in global and regional disaster risk reduction frameworks.

“The Bill is the product of constant consultations and lessons learnt from disasters and of course the good work done by my predecessor, the Honorable Leader of Opposition during his tenure as Minister responsible for Disaster Management.”

Minister Ditoka said the prompt enactment of the Bill would ensure that all necessary protocols, funding, and organisational structures were in place to effectively manage and mitigate disaster risks, potentially saving lives and reducing damage before the start of the new cyclone season later in November.

“The Bill is also one of Government Policy reform actions of the joint budget support operation with multiple development partners together with contingent to a funding package of over $500 million. By expending the Bill under Standing Order 51 with referral to the standing committee, will surely demonstrate of our collective commitment to protecting foreign and domestic investments in the country, by reassuring investors and stakeholders of the country’s resilience and stability, thereby maintaining economic confidence and preventing potential financial losses,” added Hon. Ditoka