Jyoti Pratibha, Fiji Sun
No matter where I have gone, I have always shared the same feeling of unity and joy with our Fijian family.
It is a feeling that cannot be bought, 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.
Fijians in Australia
There are over 50,000 Fijians, who live in Australia now, and I want all of them 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 brimming with opportunity for every Fijian.
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.
Fiji of our Vision
That progress has come about because we are steadily realising the vision for the new Fiji – a vision that I have 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 resettled in Sydney and throughout Australia did so because they did not 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.
Civil Service Reforms
We are 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 who 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-focused and more results-oriented, with, of course, the biggest winners being ordinary Fijians. The iTaukei own 91% of the land in Fiji, and that ownership is guaranteed under the Constitution for all time.
We will no longer have situations where iTaukei land is 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 while recognising the unique culture, customs, traditions and language of the iTaukei and Rotumans. We have 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.
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.
Effects 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 have taken up COP23 Presidency, because we cannot sit idly by while industrialised nations continue to make this crisis even worse.
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 have 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 A $6 million (F$ $9.65 million) support to our presidency and this vital mission that we are undertaking.
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.
Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama is Prime Minister of Fiji. The above are extracts of his speeches in Australia in mid-October to mark Fiji Independence Day. Since then, he has chaired the COP23 Conference in Bonn, Germany, a report on which appears in this Section. The above report appeared in Fiji Sun and has been reproduced here under a Special Arrangement with the Publication.
- Bainimarama speaking in Sydney
- Bainimarama with his fellow-Citizens in Sydney