Sydney, Australia, October 21, 2018
Today’s citizens of Fiji are defined by unity and not by ethnicity, Prime Minister Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama has said.
Frank Bainimarama speaking at ‘Fiji Day’ held at Woodward Park, Sydney
Speaking at the ‘Fiji Day’ celebrations held at Woodward Park in Sydney, Australia yesterday (October 20), he said., “Our identity, as Fijians is not defined by our ethnicity, nor is it defined by our religion, language, status in life, gender or physical ability. It is defined, above all, by our love of country and our love of one another, and that is why we celebrate Fiji Day,” he said.
He said this concept of unity had encouraged his government to organise ‘Fiji Day’ celebrations in as may places as possible outside Fiji. The erstwhile practice of marking the day only in Suva (Fiji Capital) has been changed, he said.
Fijian First everywhere
Stating that ‘Fiji Day’ has been celebrated in Australia many times in the past, Mr Bainimarama said that each occasion has been special.
Frank and Maria Bainimarama with members of the Community in Sydney
“Each of our celebrations has served as a reminder that, no stretch of ocean, no national boundary, and no amount of distance, no matter how vast, can diminish the bonds that bind our global Fijian family. It does not matter if you are living here in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane or somewhere on the other side of the world, you are Fijian all the same, you are part of our national celebrations and you deserve to share in our national joy,” he said.
Mr Bainimarama said that it is the quality of Fijian character that makes Fiji a special place to call home. That character is manifest in the famed hospitality that Fijians offer to every visitor and it forms the backbone of the country’s global peacekeeping commitment overseas, as Fijian women and men bravely sacrifice in the name of global peace and security by defending those who cannot defend themselves, he said.
Bainimarama supporters taking pictures and selfies
Time and distance no matter
“I have met with Fijians who have been separated from our country for almost an entire generation, but even after those long decades overseas, they are filled with concern and questions about what’s happening back in Fiji. And they are often brought to tears, when I am able to tell them how well our country has been doing. And when Fijian families are left devastated in the aftermath of the cyclones that strike our country, assistance pours in from those same Fijians around the world who want to do their part to help them get back on their feet. And it makes me proud to lead a nation that instils such a level of loyalty and patriotism in its citizens and a people that are filled with such care and compassion for their countrymen and women,” Mr Bainimarama said.
He said that prior to December 5, 2006, Fiji had been tarnished by deep divides along ethnic and religious lines in its society, bringing immeasurable ham to many Fijian families, and holding the country back from its tremendous potential.
“But those days are finally over. We have closed the door on those dark years in our history, when Fijians were pitted against their fellow Fijians, and our people were left fighting for scraps in a stagnant economy. Now, we are proudly a united nation, we are all finally Fijians, equal in every way, and working together to grow our national cake so that everyone gets a bigger slice,” he said.
“Our economy is on the cusp of ten straight years of economic growth. Our schools are filled with record numbers of Fijian students, thanks to our free primary and secondary education initiative, free textbooks and subsidised transportation to school, along with the historic funding we have put towards tertiary loans and scholarships. And we have given an all-time high, one-billion-dollar allocation towards the education of our people in our latest national budget,” Mr Bainimarama said.
He said that Fiji’s unemployment is at its lowest point in decades.
“We are experiencing record infrastructure development and expansion of critical services. And we’ve rolled out an unprecedented programme of support to Fijian families, to strengthen the role of families in developing good citizens and reinforcing the values that make for a safer and more caring society,” he said.
Mr Bainimarama said that his government has expanded the country’s telecommunications capacity throughout the country and that a new submarine cable has been placed at Vanua Levu, bringing IT speeds equal to what is found on Viti Levu.
Combating Climate Change
“We have also led the world in confronting some of the greatest challenges facing humanity today. I am continuing to serve in my role as President of COP23, leading the global effort to address the issue of climate change and reduce global emissions. Fiji recently became the first-ever Pacific island country elected to the United Nations Human Rights Council and has been tasked with the Chairmanship of the World Bank Small States Forum, on top of our previous major leadership roles as co-host of the first-ever UN Ocean Conference, Chair of the G77 Plus China, and President of the United Nations General Assembly,” he said.
Fiji’s High Commissioner to Australia, Luke Daunivalu speaking at the event
Mr Bainimarama said that the second national elections, scheduled to be held on November 14, 2018 would be free, fair and transparent.
“Every vote will matter equally, every voice will be heard, and the outcome will reflect the genuine will of the Fijian people
Among those present at the event were Fijian High Commissioner Luke Daunivalu, Consul General and Trade Commissioner Zarak Khan, Fiji Day Organising Committee President Allan Gock, Australian MP Michelle Rowland and Liverpool Deputy Mayor Ali Karnib.