Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

NZ Consul slammed for lack of response to New Zealanders stranded in Israel

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air

Members of Tonga’s church group stranded in Israel. Photo: Lotu Fifita.
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Neueli Mauafu | Reporter

“It just goes to show that these people  who sit in these positions of power, creating these responses/solutions are incredibly disconnected and unfit for their roles.”

“Disappointing” and “horrific”, these were just some of the words used by Pesi Sikalu in regards to her communication with the New Zealand consulate in Israel.

Sikalu and her church group from New Zealand are stranded in Israel and were touring the country when the conflict between Israel and Palestinian groups broke out last week. 

Pesi Sikalu with her dad, Rev Vosailangi in the UK. Photo: Rev Vosailangi.

The only contact made with Sikalu was through close friend Torisse Laulu who spoke to Tagata Pasifika regarding the whole situation.

“Most of the group are made up of elders. So naturally, there are many people in this group who have medical needs. I think their illnesses are being exacerbated by the constant stress and fear that they are under,” Laulu said.

“I called them late Wednesday night trying to communicate the urgency of the situation and that this group needed to be evacuated asap and was met with an automated response. 

“Nine hours later we didn’t hear back anything, so then I followed up and still got the same answer.”

Rev Vosailangi at the Wailing Wall, Israel. Photo: Rev Vosailangi.

Laulu also stated that the Fijians who were stranded with Sikalu and her group had received better assistance from their government than from the New Zealand consulate. 

“How does the Fijian government, who has less resources and manpower than New Zealand does, manage to pay for flights for over 200-plus of their citizens home and we can’t?” Sikalu said.

“I just feel like the response was made by privileged people for privileged people. It just goes to show that these people who sit in these positions of power, creating these responses-solutions are incredibly disconnected and unfit for their roles.”

So far, the latest update from the New Zealand consulate is that they have organised the group’s flights to New Zealand with no confirmed time schedule. A flight was available in two days time which had limited seating but no guarantee of seats. The flights were paid for to Abu Dhabi and then the group were expected to pay for their fares home (NZ) from Abu Dhabi. 

Tongan church members are hopeful they’ll return home safely. Photo: Rev Vosailangi.

As for Laulu, she hopes that the experience of Sikalu and her church group can be a lesson for those who are in power and making crucial decisions in the country.

“I could go on and on with the many things they can improve on but I think changing their processes and those in positions of power is key. Their current processes are clearly not working so they need to rethink that and how they respond to these emergencies.

“In Pasifika cultures, we move collectively and we go over and above to ensure that our team/village is cared for. You can see this reflected in Fiji’s government’s response to their citizens, trapped.”

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