GOVERNMENT TO DISBURSE FUNDS TO VETERANS OF CHRISTMAS ISLANDS ?OPERATION GRAPPLE?

The Fijian Government through the Ministry of Defence, National Security and Immigration today announced the commencement of the process to disburse the one-off payment to veterans of the Christmas Islands nuclear tests known as Operation Grapple.

The Minister for Defence, National Security and Immigration, Hon. Timoci Natuva said that funds allocated this year is a one off payment as medical assistance in recognition of the various ailments these veterans had suffered?over the years since 1960, after their exposure to nuclear radiation during the tests at Christmas Islands.

In the 2015 budget, Government had allocated $2.95million to the Ministry for this purpose, which has been the result of a coordinated effort between the Nuclear Veterans Association, the Ministry and the Republic of Fiji Military Forces (RFMF).

Mr Natuva said the disbursement process was initiated through the formation of a Task Force comprising of officials from his Ministry, the Ministry of Employment, Productivity and Industrial Relations, the Nuclear Veterans Association and the RFMF.

The Minister further elaborated that the role of the Task Force is to properly verify individual claims prior to payment of the assistance.

The Task Force will visit various designated centres, details of ?which will be published in the dailies soon, for a face to face interview with recipients and dependents.

Priority of payments will be to the surviving veterans, followed by direct dependents. According to the Minister, this payment is to help compensate some of the medical costs that had been borne by the veterans and families over the years and is not a form of compensation as there is an ongoing legal case between the Veterans Association and the British Government. The Minister further mentioned that, this government has a duty of care to the veterans who have been neglected for so long given the uniqueness of their situation. It is a sad fact that many of the veterans have passed ? on, however, late is better than never.

In order to facilitate proper management and the efficient and effective coordination for the one-off payout, the Ministry is coordinating the verification process against existing records with the relevant stakeholders before final decisions are made to effect the payment to recipients.

In this regard, the Ministry of Employment, Productivity and Industrial Relations will finally disburse funds only after due process has been followed and the final approval from the Ministry of Defence is given.

Claimants are requested to provide as soon as possible the following documentation:

Priority 1?Claimants (Survivors) ? regimental number, birth certificate, any form of ID i.e. RSESA

Priority 2?Claimants (Dependents) ? Death certificate of Veteran, Marriage certificate if spouse is alive, birth certificates of legal dependents (children) and a copy of WILL/Probate (if any).

The Task Force Secretariat namely Mr Lui Veretawatini/Mrs Maria Nabola can be reached on 3211245 and 3211223 or Mrs Selina Cama?on mobile 9905578. The email address is?defence@govnet.gov.fj

DEPTFO