Josaia Voreqe (Frank) Bainimarama, the newly elected Prime Minister of Fiji has acknowledged the immense debt Fiji owes to Sri Lanka.
As reported in these columns, his Fiji First Party secured 59.2% of the votes at the General Election held on September 17, 2014.
During his inaugural speech in Parliament on October 13, 2014, Mr Bainimarama, thanked the members of the Fijian Judiciary, judges and magistrates and paid a special tribute to Sri Lanka for providing judges and magistrates at Fiji’s time of need.
He said, “I especially want to thank those individuals who head our institutions of State for the sacrifices they were prepared to make in the face of criticism, abuse and sanctions. Some of those who we counted as our friends set out to degrade our standards of governance by targeting and punishing these individuals who accepted positions in the Judiciary, as Ministers and on the Boards of our State-Owned Enterprises. To those of you who withstood vilification and in some cases even death threats, I also extend my warmest thanks. I will never forget your loyalty to our nation, and our cause of building a better Fiji,” he said.
Mr Bainimarama said that he was particularly grateful to the members of the Judiciary, including Judges and Magistrates headed by Chief Justice Anthony Gates, for willing to stand up to international condemnation, so that the Fijian people could continue to have access to justice.
“I especially thank those who came from Sri Lanka to join other Judges and Magistrates who stood by our nation when we needed them. Because of these heroes, the genuine rule of law in Fiji prevailed even during the most challenging times, and we owe you all an immense depth of gratitude. We owe an immense debt to the Government and President of Sri Lanka for facilitating their service to Fiji,” Mr Bainimarama said.
He said that two Sri Lankans had taken leadership positions to serve on the boards appointed by the Government during the challenging times.
He referred to Ajith Kodagoda, Honorary Consul for Sri Lanka in Fiji, who was appointed in 2009 as the Chairman of the Fiji National Provident Fund, Fiji Inland Revenue and Customs Authority and the Amalgamated Telcome Holdings and P L Munasinghe as Chairman of Water Authority.