Opinion

Fiji More United Now: PM

These are excerpts of Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama’s speech at the celebration of the 47th anniversary of Fiji’s Independence Day on Saturday in Sydney with the Fijian communities in Australia.
16 Oct 2017 11:52
Fiji More United Now: PM
Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama with a Fijian family after addressing the Fijian communities in Sydey, Australia on October 14, 2017. Photo: DEPTFO News
  • These are excerpts of Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama’s speech at the celebration of the 47th anniversary of Fiji’s Independence Day on Saturday in Sydney with the Fijian communities in Australia.

The President of the Fiji Day Organising Committee, My fellow Fijians, Friends of Fiji, Ladies and Gentlemen.

Bula vinaka and a very good afternoon to you all.

What a pleasure it is to be back in Sydney with so many of my fellow Fijians and friends of Fiji as we celebrate the 47th Anniversary of our Independence.

It is wonderful that, even an ocean away from our home, we can all come together, as Fijians, to show our love for our great country.

Earlier this week, I joined many of our fellow Fijians in Nadi where, for the first time ever, we held our national celebration for Fiji Day in the West.

Thousands of Fijians gathered together in honour of our independence, watched our military perform in their annual parade, and celebrate our ties as a united Fijian family.

It was a very special event for me to take part in; it was so great to bring our national celebration to our Western Division, and celebrate with many Fijians who had never taken part in our official celebrations, which have always been held in Suva.

This year, I’ve also had the opportunity to meet our fellow Fijians in Vancouver and San Francisco to celebrate our independence and carry the message about where Fiji is today, and where our nation is headed.

And now, finally, I’m in Sydney with all of you for your Fiji Day celebrations.

No matter where I’ve gone, I’ve always shared in the same feeling of unity and joy with our Fijian family, and I know we all share in that same spirit this afternoon. It’s a feeling that can’t be bought, it’s a feeling that never fails to stir my heart – seeing the smiling faces of so many of our citizens, of all ages and backgrounds,  dressed in Fiji Blue singing our national anthem – those moments rank among my most treasured as Prime Minister.

Every year, these celebrations serve as a reminder of all we work for, as one nation and one people, determined to build a new and better Fiji.

It puts faces to the initiatives that my Government fights for every day, and it shows me how far we have come as a nation.

It recharges my own passion to continue down this path of progress and take Fiji to even greater heights.

Hon Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama at the official Fiji Day Program in Sydney

50,000 Fijians in Australia

There are over 50,000 Fijians, who live in Australia now, and I want all of them, not just those here today, to feel that same sense of pride and belonging that are ignited at these Fiji Day celebrations.

Because now, more than ever, Fiji is united and Fiji is brimming with opportunity for every Fijian.

Luckily, you are a short flight away from returning to experience all of that for yourselves.

In the meantime, I am proud to tell you about the progress that we have made, and what we are working to achieve for the future of Fiji.

That progress has come about because we are steadily realising the vision for the new Fiji – a vision that I’ve spoken with your community about in the past.

A Fiji where no Fijian feels cast aside in their own country.

A Fiji where no Fijian is left out of our national development and prosperity.

And a Fiji where every Fijian’s success is determined by their own discipline, their own ambition and their own hard work.

I know that many Fijians who resettled here in Sydney and throughout Australia did so because they didn’t see a future for themselves in Fiji.

Many left because they had lost faith in where our nation was headed, and sought better lives for themselves and for their children.

And others left because, sadly, they felt like unwelcome strangers in their own rightful home.

There are times in our history when it was difficult to see our nation’s true potential.

I know that.

But that is no longer the case – that is not the Fiji I lead today.

Hon Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama in Sydney

Reform for civil service

We are currently in the midst of a massive reform programme for the Fijian civil service, as we seek to engrain a new culture of excellence and service-delivery across government.

When our work is complete, recruitment in the civil service will be based solely on merit.

Not on whom you may know who your parents may be or where in Fiji you may be from, but on merit.

And that work – that commitment – is making our civil service more client-focussed and more results-oriented, with, of course, the biggest winners being ordinary Fijians.

The iTaukei own 91 per cent of the land in Fiji, and that ownership is guaranteed under the Constitution for all time.

We no longer will have situations where iTaukei land were permanently alienated and converted to freehold land under the previous governments and constitutions.

The Constitution also prohibits unfair discrimination on the basis of one’s culture or religion wwhile recognising the unique culture, customs, traditions and language of the iTaukei and Rotumans.

We’ve also ensured that lease monies are equally distributed amongst all members of a land owning unit.

This brings about transparency, equality and economic empowerment for all, not just the few.

For the first time there is constitutional protection for tenants who lease land. We have also now made it legally possible for leases to be issued up to 99 years.

As some of you would know previously leases were, at least for agricultural purposes, issued only for 30 years.

Prime Minister Bainimarama meeting Fijians in Sydney

COP23

Finally, as you all likely know, we are also preparing to take on the most important responsibility ever entrusted to Fiji – our upcoming presidency of the ongoing United Nations negotiations on climate change, COP23.

This November, in Bonn, Germany, Fiji will take the lead in confronting the greatest threat that has ever faced humanity – that of climate change.

We all know that the effects of our changing climate are already upon us.

Here in Australia, you are facing the loss of your Great Barrier Reef.

In Fiji, we are faced with the rising seas, changing weather patterns and severe weather events – events like Tropical Cyclone Winston.

I know many of you here watched from afar as Tropical Cyclone Winston ravaged our nation, destroying homes, schools and public buildings, and claiming the lives of 44 Fijians.

I know you waited anxiously for news of your families and loved ones.

And I know many of our Fijian community in Australia came together to assist affected Fijians – and I thank you dearly for that support.

I’ve taken on the COP23 Presidency, because we cannot sit idly by while industrialised nations continue to make this crisis even worse.

And I will be demanding bold and decisive action on this issue in Bonn this November, as we seek the full implementation of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.

We’ve assembled a grand coalition for climate action of governments, businesses and civil society that I will lead to the COP this November.

And I would like to thank the Australian Government for their AUD $6 million (FJD $9.65m) support to our presidency and this vital mission we are undertaking.

My fellow Fijians, I always look forward to spending time with your community here in Sydney because you always put on such a vibrant show of patriotism for your home, our beloved Fiji.

I encourage you to share the news and developments of Fiji with those that cannot be here today, your friends, your coworkers, and your community.

By doing this, you are helping Fiji in ways that cannot be accomplished on our own.

Members of my delegation are also present and available to help anyone interested in applying for Fijian citizenship, as you know that under my Government we allow for holding of multiple citizenship.

We have the Fijian Elections Office team here who can register you to vote and we have a team from the Ministry of iTaukei Affairs who can register your children in the Vola Ni Kawa Bula.

I greatly appreciate all of your words of encouragement and thank for you all for the invitation to be here.

And I wish you all a very happy and blessed Fiji Day!

Vinaka Vakalevu.

Thank you.

Feedback:  jyotip@fijisun.com.fj

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