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Tikoduadua: Let’s Strive Together To Better The Lives Of All Fijians

Tikoduadua: Let’s Strive Together To Better The Lives Of All Fijians
Pio Tikoduadua
October 18
08:53 2014

It is my duty this morning as Leader of the Government Business in the Parliament to give its right of reply to the addresses made by the Opposition in this opening session. It is also my honour to make my maiden speech as a FijiFirst member and as Minister for Infrastructure and Transport.

Before I do, allow me to join the other speakers in congratulating you, Madam Speaker, on your appointment. We can all agree that this opening session has been memorable, not least for having a woman in the Chair for the first time in the history of parliamentary rule in Fiji.

We can also agree that the opening address by His Excellency the President was one of the most eloquent and important ever delivered in this Parliament. In vivid terms, the President brought to life the history of this Chamber. He reminded us of the momentous events that have taken place here over the years and invoked the spirit of the men and women who laid the foundation for our nation. Above all, he set the tone for our new democracy by reminding us that we are all here to serve the Fijian people and that history will not judge us kindly if we let them down.

I think many of us can also agree that in his own maiden speech, the Honourable Prime Minister rose to the occasion by reiterating the main themes of the President’s speech – that we must strive to work together constructively to improve the lives of all Fijians and especially our young people.

On the Government side, we all looked forward to a similarly inspirational speech from the Leader of the Opposition. But unfortunately the Honourable Leader sank to the occasion with a speech that was notably short of new ideas about how to take our nation forward. Instead, she chose to fight the General Election all over again, resurrecting some of the main themes of her campaign. These include her claim that the iTaukei are somehow disadvantaged in the new Fiji when the opposite is true and they have never been stronger.

Madam Speaker:

It is very discouraging for anyone who believes in genuine democracy to see the Opposition still trying to argue the merit of policies that were overwhelmingly rejected by the Fijian people. We know they are having trouble coming to terms with their election defeat. But they desperately need some fresh ideas if they are to remain at all relevant to our national debate over the next four years.

Before the election, the Prime Minister rightly called this “a battle of ideas” for the hearts and minds of the Fijian people. FijiFirst won this battle in a manner that the international community has described as credible, free and fair. But the Honourable Leader of the Opposition and her front bench still can’t seem to accept the will of the people. They fight on with their arms and legs cut off but still refusing to concede defeat.

Madam Speaker:

Those of us on the Government side came here this week eager to meet a worthy opponent that aspires to be the alternative government. But they have failed the test with a series of speeches that offered the Fijian people nothing new.

The Opposition must come to terms with the fact that it was their politics of division that cost them the election. They need to get with the times and come up with fresh ideas that are relevant to the lives of every Fijian. And they need to tell the truth in this Parliament, the truth that they didn’t tell during the election campaign.

Madam Speaker please, permit me to elaborate.

– It is not true to say that the iTaukei have been weakened when we have guaranteed ownership of our land than ever before – more than 90 per cent – and more opportunities than ever before.

–  It is not true to say that our identity has been stolen when an English name that only came with the English is used to describe every other citizen. We are all citizens of our beloved Fiji, and as such we are all Fijians and the Opposition need to learn to accept that.

– It is not true that the right of we Christians to worship Our Lord Jesus Christ or Catholics to honour Mary and the Saints publically or privately is threatened by the provision of a secular state in our Constitution. It is guaranteed, along with other freedoms, yet the Christian fundamentalists sitting opposite still try to stir up division.

– It is not true to say that our strength as a people has weakened just because some of our institutions have been reformed. On the contrary, the strength of our identity and capability as the iTaukei derives from us as a people.

– It is not true to say that there will be another coup unless the Constitution is changed. And it is an outrageous abuse of the privilege afforded by this Chamber for the opposition member opposite to have made such a threat. The Constitution will not be changed, except by the Constitutional provisions, and any insurrection will be addressed decisively.

– By the same token, it is hypocritical of the Honourable Whip of the Opposition to comment on the provisions of immunity in the 2013 Constitution when he himself was a beneficiary of similar provisions in the 1990 and 1997 Constitutions for the events of 1987.

– It is not true that expatriates are taking the jobs of qualified Fijians in our economy, in which we need the best people to take Fiji forward. We will not force the pace of localisation if it means degrading our capability as a nation.

– And it is not true that Fijians have never been more divided, as yet another Opposition member claimed in his maiden speech.

Every Fijian knows for a fact that we have never been more united than we are now. Nor does our nation have such a sense of purpose or so much promise.

As the members of this Chamber have risen in alphabetic order this week to lay out their vision for our nation, the contrast between the Government and the Opposition couldn’t be more stark.

While we offer a vision for Fiji of inclusiveness and hope, of us finally achieving our promise as a nation, they lay out an agenda of division and restoring the power of the elites. While we have our sights set on the future, and especially for our young people, they want to keep fighting old battles that have already been lost.

That the Fijian people rejected on Septembber 17. We hope on this side of the Chamber – for the sake of our nation – that they will soon see the error of their ways. Because if they don’t, it is going to be a long and frustrating four years.  The only comfort is that when we gather here again after the 2018 election, there will be fewer of them. Because they have misjudged the iTaukei.  What they say about the iTaukei does not resonate with me or any of the iTaukei I know.

This week, the watching public saw a Government with a solid record of service delivery brimming with new ideas about how to take our beloved nation forward. A Government committed to national unity and the rights and opportunities of every Fijian. And across the Chamber, Opposition members parroting the same old negative chant – of the iTaukei people threatened when they’re not, Christianity threatened when it’s not. An opposition bereft of positive ideas and no concept of how to take us forward as one people, one nation, one Fiji.

Madam Speaker:

And so I turn to my maiden speech as a proud iTaukei who is a living example of why the Opposition is so fundamentally wrong. I certainly started out as disadvantaged like tens of thousands of Fijians of all backgrounds. But with hard work and determination – and not some accident of birth – I have fought my way up and earned the privilege of serving my country at the highest levels of Government.

My own experience has taught me that we iTaukei don’t need more advantages than other Fijians. We already have them by having the most important assets in Fiji – our people and our land. Some people opposite argue that iTaukei land is sacred. I agree with that premise because I share their view that land is a creation of God. But God’s intentions tell us that it is only sacred if it is used for the purpose of benefiting humankind and his progress. Not to sit idle but be utilised, as in the Parable of the Talents. It’s what we do with the land that really matters.

Madam Speaker:

As the Honourable Prime Minister has said, we don’t need hand-outs. We need leg-ups. And my own life is the perfect example of where leg ups can transform an ordinary person’s life.

I come from the most humble of origins, born in considerable hardship to a single mother who is still alive in the village of Navunisole in Korovou, Northland, Tailevu. Her name is Senoveva Ranadi and I want to pay tribute to her before the nation today for her love and support.

I also want to pay tribute to my Grandfather and mentor, Mosese Radokana, who toiled on Tailevu Dairy Farm in Korovou until he was 75-years-old to enable me to go to school at the Natovi primary and secondary schools. It was a sacrifice for which I will be forever grateful. My Grandfather taught me the value of prayer and hard work. He always said that despite our struggles as a family, we could all live lives of satisfaction and he was right.

My Grandfather also taught me that my cultural values and tradition are only worthwhile if they don’t contradict the values of my Christian faith. They mean nothing if they don’t go hand in hand with the love of God and the love of man.

What made the difference for me was my Catholic upbringing, which educated me and taught me values of love and inclusiveness that is so far from that of the fundamentalists on the opposite benches as to be unrecognisable.

Our Lord Jesus Christ – were he to appear among us today – would be shocked to hear people who profess to be his followers making very unChristian principled statements.

I want to acknowledge the Vincentian Fathers, the Congregation of the Mission, especially Father Alan Finn, who taught me the values of compassion, love and care for the poor embodied by St Vincent De Paul himself. Father Finn is a Vincentian Priest from Australia. He came to Fiji in 1959 and is still alive at the age of 82 and living in Wailoku. He has been one of the major influences in my life.

For Form Five and Form Six, I went to St John’s College in Levuka, where I was educated by the Marist Fathers. It’s a notable fact that the Honourable Prime Minister, the Honourable Attorney-General and I were all educated in the Marian tradition, the PM and A-G at Marist Brother’s High School in Suva and me at St John’s College. The AG, of course, is a Muslim but he still subscribes to the Marian values – that was instilled in him by the Marist Brothers. That no matter what your background or religion, we are all equal in the eyes of God. In contrast to the Christian fundamentalists opposite us, our belief of Christianity is an inclusive one. The central teachings of Christ – love, tolerance, compassion, equality.  And they are the values at the heart of this Government.

Madam Speaker:

We are all on a pilgrimage in this life. One day we will die. And I believe that the only thing we will be asked at the end is “how much have we loved?” The fundamentalists say God gave Fiji to the iTaukei. The true Christian belief is that the world always belongs to God, never to a human on pilgrimage on earth. As in the words of the Psalmist in Psalm 24:1: “The earth and everything on it belong to the Lord. The world and its people belong to him”.  God gave this world for everyone to share.

As with many of you, my greatest joy is my home life and I want to pay a special tribute today to my wife, Sereana, my son Mosese – who is named after my beloved Grandfather – and my daughter, Sarafina.  They are my pillars of strength and I thank them for their love and support.

I also want to thank the Sisters of Our Lady of Nazareth, who mothered me in my 12 years of boarding school at Natovi and St John’s College.  Some of them live at the order’s retirement home in Wailoku and I send them my love and thanks.  And I also remember today a very great man – the late Archbishop of Suva, Petero Mataca, who had a great impact on both my life and that of the nation and who is deeply missed.

I want to thank those who assisted me with my election campaign, especially my campaign team – the FijiFirst officers in Suva and Nausori.  And I want to thank my relatives and friends, the people of Northland, Tailevu, who voted for me in such numbers, second only to the Prime Minister, and who helped put me where I am today. I was also touched to find that people voted for me from across our nation and overseas. Although I will never know who you are, I want to thank you too.

Madam Speaker:

As a kid, all I ever wanted to be was a truck driver. But by some quirk of fate, I wound up being a Colonel in the Republic of Fiji Military Forces. I served the then Commander and current Prime Minister as his first personal staff officer or ADC during the tumultuous years between 1999 and 2002.  I eventually moved into Government at his side as Permanent Secretary in the Office of the Prime Minister. I shared his vision then and I share his vision now. And it is the sole reason that I am in Parliament today.

As Minister for Infrastructure and Transport, we have already begun to outline our objectives, some of which will be contained in the 2015 Budget next month.

We will continue the task of improving the nation’s roads and will create more opportunities for local contractors to learn skills from the overseas companies that are here so that they can eventually assume the role themselves to the same standard. We are also continuing our program. To provide access to water to more Fijians, especially those living outside those areas not covered by the Water Authority of Fiji. For those who live in the Delainavesi and Veisari corridor who have been having difficulties, I want to tell you today that in six months, the water woes that you are experiencing now will be over. I have directed the Authority to purchase four booster pumps that will guarantee that the corridor between Delainavesi and Veisari can get a clean, constant water supply. Unfortunately, it will take six months for the equipment to arrive but after that, you should have water 24/7.

Madam Speaker:

We will continue our rural electrification programme and those communities that have contributed their 10 per cent will receive their supply either by grid or solar power. And we will also again boost transport links with maritime communities with the arrival of a fourth new vessel by the middle of next year.

Madam Speaker:

I come here to this Chamber with the sum total of all the values that I have been fortunate to accumulate in my life. As an iTaukei, as a Catholic, from my years in the RFMF and from the vision of our Prime Minister of a better nation for us all if we stay united.

I want to assure you my fellow iTaukei that our aspirations as a people have never been as well secured as they are under this Government.

This Government is here for you, just as it is for anyone else who is Fijian.  There is nothing to fear and everything to look forward to in the new Fiji.

God Bless our people. God Bless Fiji.

Vinaka vakalevu. Thank you.

 

 

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