NATION

Stay Safe Behind The Wheel, PM Urges Fijians

"No matter what the new year brings, we can celebrate knowing our friendships are strong, our families are safe, and our focus will remain fixed on our vision for the country – a strong Fiji, a united Fiji, a Fiji that uses its voice for the good of coming generations, a Fiji that is indeed the way the world should be. "
01 Jan 2021 08:52
Stay Safe Behind The Wheel, PM Urges Fijians
Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama outside Parliament. Photo: Leon Lord

Bula Vinaka, everyone. 

The New Year is a time for resolutions – whether that’s staying fit, kicking a bad habit, or spending more time with friends or family. There’s one commitment I’d like all of us to add to our lists for 2021, and that is to stay safe behind the wheel and to urge others to do the same. This holiday season has already seen far too many accidents and deaths on our roads. 

We simply cannot stand the heartbreak of losing more family members to reckless driving. It doesn’t matter where you’re going – it is not worth anyone’s life to get there. Please, respect the speed limit, buckle up, and keep our roads safe to drive. 

Aside from attending to road accidents, our authorities have enough work on their plate as it is. Through the Christmas holiday and into the New Year, they are restoring services, clearing roads, and delivering relief to families in the path of severe Cyclone Yasa. That support is only the start of our work to rebuild from this latest storm. 

Yasa was a cruel twist to end a tough year. Battered by a changing climate and caught in a global recession caused by a catastrophic pandemic, the hardships of 2020 have been personal for all of us in ways none of us will soon forget. 

Keen as we are to put the past 12 months behind us, before we start counting down the minutes ‘till midnight, let’s pause the clock, and spare a moment to count our blessings. In that quiet reflection, I have no doubt we’ll all find pride in how we’ve met this year’s adversity – not as individuals, and not alone as a government, but together, as neighbours and fellow Fijians, as communities, and as a country. 

Overseas, the COVID-19 pandemic is peaking while Fiji remains among the safest places in the world. We quickly contained our outbreak of the virus, stopping an untold number of lives from being stolen too soon. Rather than spend our 50th anniversary hunkered down in our homes, fearing for our lives, we made history this Fiji Day – our Fiji-50 Day – in good spirits and good health. And when the clock strikes midnight on the 31st of December, it will mark 257 days since Fiji’s last local case of this deadly virus. 

On the climate front, the science is proving painfully accurate, as the stronger impacts that the experts predicted come to pass. We began 2020 with Cyclone Tino. April bought us Cyclone Harold. Most recently, Cyclone Yasa inflicted the most severe devastation since super-storm Winston in 2016. 

I remember Winston. And I remember the promise I made then to the Fijian people: That we would build back better. Well, we have done the assessments. Not one government-funded school, building, or critical piece of infrastructure that we rebuilt from Winston was destroyed by Yasa – a storm of near-rival strength. 

There will be children in classrooms and essential services that reach our people because we are delivering on our promise of a more resilient Fiji. And that should steel our faith that we will emerge stronger from Yasa. And we will come out stronger from this global pandemic and resulting economic crisis, as will our businesses, our industries and our economy. 

A new year won’t flip some magical switch that ends the storms of 2020. This pandemic will rage on for months more, at least. But the light of a new and better year is peering through the clouds. There is a vaccine. Hope is on the horizon – hope that life will become more normal than it has been and is today. Hope that our economy regains its strength and our people reclaim their prosperity. And hope that even as our climate keeps changing, so will we. We have fortified seven more low-lying communities with seawalls in 2020 – with another 13 in the pipeline. And we have raised the ambition of our Paris Agreement commitment to build a climate-resilient Fiji, create a sustainable blue economy, and achieve net-zero emissions by 2050. 

The world is watching us; those suffering the most who have done the least to cause this crisis, yet who are leading the way with solutions: Carbon-neutral, nature-based, Fijian-led solutions. And we will continue to urge every country, particularly the high-emitters, to follow our lead. 

Before we make way for 2021, I want to thank all those who have made it safe to celebrate this New Year – our healthcare heroes, airport frontline workers, disaster officials, and members of our disciplined forces. Most every day this year, weekend after weekend, cyclone after cyclone, through the campaign to contain the virus, into Christmas, and into the New Year, they have kept us safe. 

We’ve seen the images; police officers standing through rainy nights to keep watch of our streets. Doctors working two-week straight shifts in isolation wards tending to ill patients. Disaster officials springing into action to warn us of storms and reach Fijians in need. Because of them, there are Fijians alive today to share in the hope of what the New Year will bring. And we are grateful as well to our development partners and the United Nations for rallying to the aid of our people in the aftermath of Yasa. 

No matter what the new year brings, we can celebrate knowing our friendships are strong, our families are safe, and our focus will remain fixed on our vision for the country – a strong Fiji, a united Fiji, a Fiji that uses its voice for the good of coming generations, a Fiji that is indeed the way the world should be. 

I wish you all a very happy New Year. 

God Bless Fiji 

Feedback: jyotip@fijisun.com.fj



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