Editorial comment – Our challenge
The death count has risen in the wake of the Christchurch massacre.
As messages of support for families of the victims, and strong condemnation of the killing spree that continues to grip the world, pour into New Zealand, we are drawn into a web of overwhelming sadness, anger, frustration and uncertainty.
In the face of the stories that are slowly coming out, of the minutes of terror at the mosques, there are tales filled with frightening details, and unassuming heroes.
“Allah saved me,” said 69-year-old Gulser Ali when he recalled the chilling moment he lay on the ground behind the Al-Noor mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand on Friday, pretending he was dead as the gunman stormed through the mosque killing 30 people.
Formerly of Nakasi, he has been living in Christchurch with his family for the past 13 years.
The airport cleaner had some free time last Friday so he decided to go and pray at the Al-Noor mosque at 1.30pm.
He relived his experiences, talking about how he lived to talk about his ordeal.
In the minutes of terror, he jumped over people despite having a knee replacement, and at one stage, lay down on the ground, pretending to be dead.
Then when he could no longer hear gunshots nearby, and when he did not see the gunman, he tried to jump over an eight feet wall behind the mosque.
The owner of the property, he remembers, saw him and came to help, taking him into his house where he kept him for at least 30 minutes.
He remembers crying.
Fifty people have been confirmed dead. In the face of the terror, the media has reported how New Zealand police responded to reports of the shootings.
NZ police received the first emergency call at 1.41pm and the first armed police unit was on the scene at 1.47pm.
It took them six minutes to respond.
Within 10 minutes, Police Commissioner Mike Bush said, the NZ police Armed Offenders Squad was at the scene, and within 36 minutes, the offender, he said, was in custody.
NZ Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said Christchurch should expect an increased police presence on the streets to assure the public of safety. It is sad that people from Fiji have died in this senseless killing.
We condemn the hatred and ruthless action that has brought about fear and death.
Again, we reiterate the challenge we face as Fijians to be united in this hour of great shock and sorrow for the people of New Zealand.