24 Jan 2014

Tongan govt refutes claim over slow cyclone reaction

4:50 pm on 24 January 2014

The Tongan government has refuted claims it has been inefficient and ineffective in responding to the peoples' needs following Cyclone Ian.

Nine days after Cyclone Ian struck, the Tongan government formally requested humanitarian aid, saying its capacity, resources and expertise are too limited to deal with the storm's lasting impact.

The leader of the opposition People's Democratic Party, Akilisi Pohiva, says the government was too slow to act.

But the Deputy Prime Minister and chair of the National Emergency Office, Samiu Vaipulu, says he and other members of government travelled to Ha'apai on army ships the morning after the storm.

"The quickest response is from government. We were there on Sunday with tents, everything. I haven't seen Mr Pohiva on the scene to criticise what government has done. We have done our best and we've tried to cover the needs of the people."

Samiu Vaipulu says the government waited nine days to request international humanitarian help because it needed to assess what the needs were.

He says it did not want to abuse the trust of international development partners by asking for help when it did not know what was needed.