Promises to visit memorial which opened last week without ceremony
This year’s anniversary of the killer fires of Pedrógão Grande’ has been marred by messy controversy.
Yesterday came the news that the association of victims of the fires was more than upset by the lack of ceremony involved in the opening of the memorial to the 115 people who died in the fires of 2017.
Today, the prime minister “evoked the memory of the victims”, tweeting: “No passing year will make us forget the tragedy of the 2017 fires. Let us bow before the memory of the victims and always express respect for the pain of the families”.
As president of the victims association pointed out, the three tweets – one dedicated to ensuring that on a date “chosen by the intermunicipal community and in agreement with the families, we should permanently pay tribute to those we lost” – were perhaps “not the best way” to address the people of territories devastated by raging infernoes six years ago.
There could have been “another type of communication and attitude”, she ventured, for a territory that “suffered so much” and still today seems very much left to its own devices.
Dina Duarte told Lusa, “the area continues to be abandoned”, with terrible telecommunications, “just as it was in the days of the fire in June, 2017.
“The territory is still on its own and, unfortunately, so much money was donated by the Portuguese and now even that they want to take away from us”.
Pilot projects promised for the affected territories “remain unimplemented”, she went on.
This is what Lusa’s story about the PM’s evocation of the memory of those who died six years ago today has avoided, leaving the inconvenient details for a separate text, entitled:
FIRES: PSD wants government to explain nationalisation of Revita fund
This is ‘controversy no. 2’: the government has effectively nationalised the Revita Fund – the fund created to support the reconstruction and rehabilitation of Pedrógão Grande, Figueiró dos Vinhos and Castanheira de Pera.
According to PSD MP Hugo Soares – a politician who marked today’s sad anniversary by personally visiting the association of victims – the fund has been “removed from those who can decide, and know, what the main needs” of the territory are.
“If there were no needs, and the fund had no money, this (‘governmentalisation’) could have some logic, but now, when there is money from citizens and companies, and many needs to be met, it is unbelievable that this money cannot be used for what was donated“, he said.
Soares reiterated Dina Duarte’s complaints: “Six years on, forest planning and mobile network coverage is still waiting to be resolved, which leaves the population with a feeling of fear and insecurity; the rebuilding of destroyed houses is still unresolved.
“I cannot leave here satisfied, when we hear, year after year, the claims of how much there is still to be done and recovered in these territories”, he added.
The ‘nationalisation’ / governmentalisation of the Revita Fund (which, according to its last report, held cash donations of €5,446,296.31) was opposed, explains Lusa, by the Intermunicipal Community of Leiria Region (CIMRL), which includes, among other municipalities, Castanheira de Pera, Figueiró dos Vinhos and Pedrógão Grande.
“The fact that the Directorate General of the Budget wants to allocate to the State sphere a humanitarian fund and of a private nature is nothing more than a nationalization of donations given by people and entities after those fires,” Paulo Batista Santos, member of the Management Board of Revita Fund representing those chambers and 1st executive secretary of the CIMRL, told the State news agency last month..
Thus, an atmosphere of bewilderment and discomfort on a day that does not deserve either.
As Dina Duarte told Lusa, “the memorial was something that shouldn’t have caused controversy”.
Her association has laid a wreath at the memorial this afternoon, following a mass at Vila Facaia church. Political delegations for PSD, Iniciativa Liberal and CHEGA all made a point of attending.