Family feud brews over Medical Fund


A growing dispute between the members of a family over the monies collected for kidney transplant of a young man (who is now deceased) is fast becoming distasteful to many members of the community, especially those who gave their time, money and efforts for the cause over the past several months.

‘The Sanil Kumar Medical Fund,’ established in Auckland on August 18, 2013, collected about $128,000 (through a vigorous drive throughout New Zealand and reportedly from Australia and Fiji) is at the centre of the dispute.

The Fund, an initiative of Sanil’s Uncle Ashok Kumar (not Narayan as wrongly mentioned in our previous reports), is administered by a Committee comprising several members of the Fijian community resident in Auckland.

This reporter understands that apart from meeting after-hours and working through nights, these persons have set up tight controls over the Fund’s functioning, ensuring that all payments are duly authorised by at least three members and cheques signed by at least two of them.

Mr Ashok Kumar said that he had sponsored Sanil and his younger brother Ashnil to come to New Zealand and that he had provided free boarding and lodging for the former. Ashnil, who is married, runs a restaurant in Auckland City.

Forced departure

Sanil was forced to return to Fiji on April 24, 2014 after his application for extension of stay was rejected by Associate Immigration Minister Nikki Kaye (Indian Newslink, May 1). He died at the Lautoka Hospital on May 26 (Indian Newslink, June 1), riling new Zealanders in general and members of the Fijian community in particular.

Now his father Vijay Kumar says that he should get at least 40% (about $51,200) of the amount collected for the Fund, claiming that was the wish of his son just before his death.

“Sanil went around New Zealand with other members of the Fund to mobilise finances for the transplant and other related expenses. His efforts were at least 40% and therefore I should get that share,” he told this newspaper, speaking from his home in Ba, Fiji.

Ashnil told us that he was a member of the Committee and that his father (Vinod) was handling matters related to his late brother and that he was the right person to speak about the Fund and his concerns.

Expenses incurred

According to a detailed letter and audited accounts sent to us by Committee President Kamta Prasad, the total amount raised was $128,939.72, of which $45,894.17 was spent for hospital, donor examination, lab tests and medical supplies relating to Sanil. This amount included reimbursement of medical bills paid by Ashok earlier.

He also told us that he had declined to accept $10,000 offered by the Committee to meet funeral expenses.

“The money is currently in the custody of Ashok, hoping that Vinod will accept it. We will wait until September 15, 2014 after which it will be returned to the Committee. We have offered an additional sum of $10,000 to Vinod to meet various religious ceremonies conducted as a part of Hindu rites during the first year of Sanil’s death,” he said.

Mr Prasad said that after accounting for all expenses, the Committee has accrued a net income of $66,866.87 and that the amount will be used to fund the medical needs of poor people from Fiji who cannot access free public health services in New Zealand.

“The controversy has caused a lot of damage to the dignity of our community in New Zealand. This should end,” he said.

According to Hari Shankar, Public Relations Officer of the Fund, all members of the Committee are categorised as ‘major donors’ and that they are in full time employment.

Intense bitterness

There was disappointment and bitterness in Ashok as he spoke to us, narrating the sequence of events that occurred over the past three years.

“I have three daughters and hence treated Sanil as my son. When he was diagnosed with acute renal failure last year, I spared neither money nor effort to get the best treatment possible. As a family, we were keen to see his health restored to normalcy. Although Sanil has his own brother (Ashnil) in Auckland, my youngest daughter, who lives and works in Sydney left her job to donate her kidney. That did not match, and hence my other two daughters Asheelta Kumar and Ashika Aujla (who is married with children), were ready to be donors. It was while they were tested that Sanil was forced to leave New Zealand,” he said.

Ashok said that he had set up another ‘Sanil Kumar Medical Fund’ in Fiji with Vinod (Sanil’s father) as the Trustee and that there was about F$16,000 in that account.

“Vinod withdrew F$4000 from that account when I was in Fiji for the funeral. He refused to accept $10,000 that the Committee had released. I went to many cities and towns in New Zealand to get donations for the Fund. With the Committee ready to offer $20,000, Vinod would have more than F$47,000 in his account. What more can a person want? I do not understand,” he said.

Then India Sanmarga Ikya Sangam Trustee and Secretary Nikhil Naidu paid tributes to the members of the Committee and said that he would offer financial and other assistance ‘any time and without hesitation’ since they are “genuine and hard working people.”

Note to Readers: Ashok Kumar and other members of the Committee for Sanil Kumar Medical Fund believe that they have done enough for Sanil Kumar and his family and that the Fund should be renamed to reflect its objective to help needy members of the Fijian community who cannot afford private medical treatment. Do you agree? Please write to editor@indiannewslink.co.nz

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