Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama
As I signalled in my New Year’s message at the start of 2013, we need a new Flag.
Now that our new democracy is in place, we can proceed with the programme I flagged at the beginning of 2013 to adopt a symbol that is more in keeping with our national aspirations in the 21st century.
We need to replace the symbols on our existing flag that are out of date and no longer relevant, including some anchored to our colonial past.
The new Flag should reflect Fiji’s position in the world today as a modern and truly independent nation state.
The existing Flag is widely loved and admired and I want to stress that this initiative is in no way a repudiation of it or the warm sentiments we all feel whenever it is raised.
It has served us well since our Independence in 1970.
Our United Nations peacekeeping troops have fought and sometimes died under it. Our sportsmen have stood before it as they achieved some of the greatest and most inspirational victories in our sporting history.
As a nation, we will never forget the image of Iliesa Delana –now an Assistant Minister in my Government – waving our flag before the vast crowd and the global television audience when he won Gold at the London Paralympics.
Every Fijian has stood before it in our schools as they sing our National Anthem with patriotism and pride.
Therefore, we honour our existing Flag as an important link to our past and it will continue to have an important place during the transitional phase to our new national symbol.
But after 45 years, my fellow Fijians, it is time to dispense with the colonial symbols on our Flag – the Union Flag of the United Kingdom and our colonial shield – and embrace a flag that is relevant to every Fijian today.
As a Government, we are not embarking on this change lightly. I chose a stylised version of our ‘Noble Banner Blue’ for my Fiji First political movement that won in the general election held on September 17, 2014.
It is time for us all to embrace change. It is time to sever links that are no longer relevant. It is time to have a national symbol that reflects our present state as a nation, an indigenous and truly Fijian symbols of identity.
We need a Flag that we can honour as a truly authentic expression of our nation now and into the future.
Fiji is not alone in wanting to update its national symbol to reflect the changes in its society since it became independent. There are only four Commonwealth Nations that still have the Union Flag as part of their national symbols; they are Australia, New Zealand, Tuvalu and Fiji.
Change in NZ
New Zealand has begun a process to change its flag and Australia is currently debating theirs. Fiji intends to the lead the way by adopting a truly authentic expression of who we are and where we are, rather than honour someone else’s Flag.
I am outlining a process that will be inclusive and based on a consensus to design a new Flag. All Fijians including schoolchildren will be encouraged to enter a national competition for the design of this new national symbol.
We will form a National Committee chosen from a broad cross-section of the Fijian society to judge the entries and choose the most appropriate design.
This National Panel of Citizens, including nominees from the Leader of Opposition, will be set up and selected by Government.
All Fijians expect that something so important should be apolitical.
Therefore, I ask everyone to participate in this most noble of endeavours.
The competition and the formation of the National Panel will commence this month. It will be open for two months. The selection process has been planned to allow us to hoist our new flag on October 10, 2015, as we celebrate the 45th anniversary of our Independence.
Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama is Prime Minister of Fiji. The above is an edited version of the speech delivered by him at the opening of the Office of the Legal Aid Commission in Nasinu on February 3, 2015.