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The Group Managing Director Coca- Cola Amatil Ltd
The General Manager – Coca-Cola Amatil Fiji
The Director of Sunergise,
Distinguished Guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

I have just come from the opening of an important Pacific event that is part of the climate action agenda of Fiji’s Presidency of COP23. And at that function at the GPH, I was able to stress the importance of why I am with you all today – to launch and commission Coca-Cola Amatil’s first solar powered plant in the Pacific.

I was able to provide a briefing on what you have done here in Suva to my fellow Pacific leaders, the Deputy Prime Minister of New Zealand, the Australian Minister for International Development and the Pacific and the leaders of civil society and the private sector from throughout the region.

We are all meeting to discuss ways in which we in the Pacific can embark on some of our own solutions to the challenge the entire world faces from climate change. And in my opening address, I said that any project had to meet three basic tests:

First, any potential solutions we embrace must be transformative. They must be able to make a real difference and be game-changers.

Second, they must also be practical and affordable enough to be embraced on a greater scale. So that something that works in Fiji can also work across the Pacific.

And finally, they must be able to be replicated. Something innovative that happens in one community can also happen in communities across the region.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I was delighted to be able to tell everyone that this project by Coca-Cola Amatil – one of Fiji’s biggest companies – ticks all of these boxes. You have embraced solar energy to help power your installation here in Nasinu. And in doing this, you are taking a key leadership role in persuading private enterprise throughout the Pacific to do the same. Because we all know that embracing renewable energy is the key to solving the challenge of climate change, which poses such a danger to our way of life in the Pacific.

I salute the company for its vision on behalf of every Fijian and encourage every other Fijian business and investor to consider following your example. Because what you have done here is a practical and highly effective way in which the private sector can make its own contribution to the fight against climate change.

It really is a potential game changer; solar technology is becoming increasingly more efficient as well as affordable; and this is something that can be replicated throughout the region.

As I told my fellow Pacific leaders this morning, almost 4000 solar panels have been installed across almost 11-thousand square metres of roof space to generate 40 per cent of this site’s energy requirements. The plan is to take this to 80 per cent and extend the solar program to plants in Lautoka and Labasa. And already, the company is saving 415-thousand litres of diesel every year, along with 975 tonnes of carbon.

So this is a wonderful project and an example of how a multinational company – working with Sunergise and the Fijian Government – can make a real difference in the fight against climate change. Helping to protect our environment now and into the future.

Vinaka vakalevu Alison Watkin, Roger Hare, Ajay Raniga and the entire team at Coca- Cola and Sunergise for a great effort. As incoming President of COP23, I have been doing everything possible to encourage more private sector involvement in the climate change issue and I very much appreciate the lead you are taking.

I don’t need to tell you what is at stake here – the very survival of Pacific island nations. As I explained to my fellow leaders this morning, the latest scientific information we are getting is highly alarming. The impact of global warming is much more serious than we even appreciated when the nations of the world signed the Paris Agreement at the end of 2015.

This is not someone else’s problem. It is our problem. There are predictions that with the melting of the ice in polar regions, the sea could be as much as seven metres higher. Yes, seven metres. Which would put much of Suva under water, along with 80 per cent of the world’s capitals that are also coastal cities.

So the urgency of dealing with this cannot be overstated. I have to say I get a bit frustrated with some small minded people in Fiji who ask why I am spending so much time on COP when we have other issues to deal with in Fiji.

My simple response is that nothing else will matter in the least if we can’t secure our future in the face of climate change. It is the number one issue in Fiji and the entire world. And having been asked to lead that fight by the global community, I am going to do it and do it to the best of my ability. Because everything we hold dear as a nation depends on it. Our way of life, the future of our children, the future of our beloved Fiji.

So ladies and gentlemen, let’s all get behind this struggle. Keep cheap politics out of the need for urgent action on climate change. Let’s work together as a nation to do what we can to make a difference. To get the world to understand that our very future hangs in the balance.

Again, thank you Coca-Cola- Amatil for making a difference yourselves. And I encourage every Fijian company to embrace alternative energy in the same way.

I also want to acknowledge and thank you for your efforts to recycle some of the millions of plastic drink bottles that pose such a threat to our environment. Coca-Cola Amatil is the only local beverage maker engage in recycling PET bottles. And again, I urge other manufacturers to follow your lead.

And with those words, Ladies and Gentleman, I now have great pleasure in launching the Coca-Cola Amatil Fiji Solar Energy Project.

Vinaka vakalevu, thank you.


The Members of the Korokula Land Owning Unit,
Ladies and Gentlemen.

Cola Vina and a very good morning to you all.

I’m delighted to be here today as we celebrate a project that marks the beginning of a new era of prosperity and empowerment for the iTaukei people, as we break ground on the first-ever Government funded development of iTaukei land.

The motivation for this project, along with that of so many others that my Government is carrying out across our islands, is rooted in my deeply held belief to assist all Fijians without discrimination and recognise the ability and ingenuity of all our citizens. All over Fiji, we have people – men and women with limitless potential – who simply need the means to find success – the means to build better lives for themselves, and uplift those around them to do the same. That is the vision we are working to realise for every Fijian. Yesterday I was giving out micro-finance grants to assist Fijians to participate in small businesses and today we are here to assist iTaukei landowners to directly capitalise from their landownership.

This afternoon I will also attend a similar ground breaking ceremony for three other such developments in Vuda, Saweni and Wairebetia.

Ladies and Gentlemen, the iTaukei people today, operate from a position of strength unrivalled by any other time in our history. The land and rights of the iTaukei are protected and enshrined for all time in the Fijian Constitution – the supreme law of the land that governs every action of my Government.

Of course, even in the midst of such protections and achievements, we’ve seen time and time again, the usual suspects in the Opposition go through the same tired charade of spreading fear and spinning lies – all in their attempt to deceive the iTaukei people to further their own political and personal ambitions. But, Ladies and Gentlemen, the facts speak for themselves. And the fact is, not one inch of iTaukei land has been lost under my Government, and today around 91 per cent of the land in Fiji is owned by the iTaukei.

Never have the iTaukei been more secure, never before have they had more opportunity to improve their lives and the lives of those around them. And never before have young iTaukei men and women had a better shot of realising their dreams and aspirations for the future. Indeed never before have all iTaukei people been treated equally amongst themselves. My Government assists all iTaukei people equally. In providing Government service and assistance we don’t make a distinction between chief and commoner.

All iTaukei people are also entitled to the rights my Government has always fought to uphold for all Fijians, including the right to and access to free education, scholarships, tertiary education loans and access to roads, water, electricity, subsidised bus fares, free water and subsidised electricity to name a few.

But even with these unprecedented guarantees, my Government wanted to do more. We didn’t only want to protect the ownership of iTaukei land and the rights of the iTaukei, we wanted to do one better by providing a solid foundation for growth that would empower iTaukei people and that is what this project is all about.

iTaukei people in Fiji have long faced the issue of being asset-rich but cash poor. Of course one of the reasons this has been is because the politicians of the past and some even today politicise land ownership. Rather than assisting iTaukei people to benefit economically and financially from the landownership, they simply did nothing about it. Rather than telling landowners that if they developed the land themselves and they will not only become cash rich but also create more wealth and opportunities for the country, they sought to only look after themselves.
I am here to tell you that my Government thinks differently. We want you to realise benefits from your land. We want you to become more economically and financially powerful. We want you to lease your lands for long term leases and get the right rental paid for it. And we will as we are doing today give you the funding to develop your land so you will do precisely that. My Government is a practical government. We know that many landowning units don’t have the upfront funds to carry out such developments. I also know that because of the non-availability of such funds many landowning units were vulnerable – vulnerable to interests with far deeper pockets that sought to lease their land, add value through capital investment and make a killing, leasing that same land out to other parties.

Through this initiative of my Government that will no longer be the case. We will build the roads and connect your subdivision to water and electricity so you can directly sell the leases yourself to make a financial gain.

This subdivision project at Yadua is one of the first four projects to benefit under this grant, with the development of 13 residential lots at a total cost of nearly $2.5 million.
When you lease this land after the development is completed it will benefit every Fijian. It will benefit you as the developer, it will provide economic opportunities to small and medium sized businesses in this area, there will be more construction thereby providing more jobs and it will give confidence to investors to invest more through security of 99 year leases. This subdivision will create more economic opportunities for Fiji and all Fijians.

I am very excited to watch this land develop and serve the people of Yadua, and many more Fijians in the years to come. To the people of Yadua, this is your land today, and it will be your land for all time. Take this opportunity to make the best possible use of what is yours, and build something that will support your community for generations.

Vinaka vakalevu – Thank you.


The Minister for Local Government;
Distinguished Guests;
Ladies and gentlemen,
Bula vinaka and a very good morning to you all.

I’m delighted to be here today to officially open Lami’s latest community landmark – the newly constructed Tikaram Park ground and facilities. This beautiful new park is the first of its kind for Lami – a town that has enjoyed tremendous development over the past ten years.

As one of our most prominent townships, Lami is home to nearly 20,000 Fijians and hundreds of thriving businesses. And the record levels of development and prosperity that we achieved as a nation over the past decade are owed to every Fijian – including the men and women hard at work right here in Lami.

As we have notched seven straight years of economic growth, attracted unprecedented levels of investment into the country and boosted our engagement with the world, your town has emerged as one of the fastest growing municipalities in Fiji. You have all demonstrated a commitment to bettering yourselves, your families and your nation, and while you are smaller than your neighbouring Suva City, you haven’t allowed that to limit your town’s ambition. And Lami has attracted serious attention from our business community and from the many Fijians who have chosen to settle here over the years.

When any town or city grows, as its population expands and it gradually becomes more urban, it is vital that we begin thinking seriously about how to accommodate for that development and maintain the well-being of our citizens. As businesses and residential buildings spring up within a community, we have to also provide spaces that give respite from the bustle of town life, spaces where our people can spend quality time with their families, exercise, keep healthy and find peace of mind.

To make that a priority, my Government has overseen the construction of sporting facilities, courts and parks – such as the one being opened today – all throughout our islands. Just yesterday, I opened a multi-purpose sports facility in Davuilevu, and we recently have set up similar projects in Tailevu, Valelevu and Suva. Because as part of our campaign against the unacceptably high prevalence of non-communicable diseases in Fiji, we have gone to great lengths to give every Fijian the resources and support they need to make sport and physical exercise a bigger part of their lives.

This new park has something to offer Fijians of all ages and from all walks of life, because it is never too late or too early to enjoy the outdoors, get moving and make sport and physical exercise a bigger part of our lives. That is what makes these development projects so invaluable, because you can’t place a price on all the intangible benefits that beautiful open spaces – such as this park – bring to a community. Even simply walking past the park grounds, seeing children enjoy time with their families and with their peers can brighten someone’s day, and remind them about what we all work so hard to preserve and protect.

I’m very proud that the grounds also include an area designated for our senior citizens so that we can offer them a space to take in the sea breeze and enjoy the natural beauty you are blessed with at this new park facility. How senior citizens are treated says a lot about the caring nature of any society, so us setting aside this space should be a point of pride for every Fijian – and I ask that it be respected.

Ladies and gentlemen,
The people of Lami now have a beautiful high-quality park facility at their disposal. I encourage all of you to take some time out of your busy lives to enjoy with your children and your loved ones, relax and take in everything this new park has to offer. I’m confident these new grounds are going to become a source of life and energy for your community, and make you all that much prouder to call Lami Town your home.

Thank you all for the warm welcome you have afforded me and my delegation. I look forward to seeing this new park put to good use by your town, and I’m very keen to see Lami continue to build itself up, improve the standard of living of its residents and play an even greater role in our national development.

Vinaka vakalevu. Thank you.


Bula vinaka and a very good morning to you all.

What a pleasure it is to be here with all of you to officially open the first-ever High School to service this community – the new Jeremiah College. Today is a tremendous occasion for the people of Tacirua and all of its surrounding settlements, as it marks the start of an educational journey that will carry your children and the many generations to come into a new era of knowledge and prosperity.

Thank you for the welcome you have afforded me and my delegation. I’ve said it many times, that to be here among all of you – to see the smiles of your children and to work with you to help build a better Fiji – is the highlight of my job as Prime Minister.

This new school is one of many developments throughout Fiji that my Government is working hard to bring into our communities – so that every Fijian has an equal shot at bettering their lives, and my Government is working equally hard on the global stage to protect all the progress we have already achieved in that regard.

Last year, I spent many days abroad encouraging all nations of the world to change the wasteful and irresponsible behaviour that is warming our planet and causing severe weather events – like Tropical Cyclone Winston – and other disasters. Some of the consequences of that behaviour cause immediate devastation, like severe storms or the droughts that threaten our crops and our ability to sustain ourselves. Others cause great damage continually over time, like the warming of the oceans that threaten coral reefs and marine species. But immediate or gradual, they all cost much pain and suffering. And to be here with you all serves as a reminder of everything I am fighting so hard to protect – your future, your children’s future and Fiji’s future – and for me personally, there can be no greater motivation than that.

So my Government will be continuing that fight in the year ahead. Fiji is assuming the Presidency of the 23rd conference of parties, known as COP 23, which is the governing body of the United Nations negotiations between countries to deal with climate change. And we plan to use our presidency to do whatever it takes to reverse the global course on greenhouse gas emissions and protect all vulnerable nations – Fiji included – from the climate-related catastrophes already at our shores.

And here in Fiji, we will continue the good work that has brought us unprecedented levels of success and given Fijians from all walks of life access to essential services, infrastructure and education like never before. Because we cannot afford to take even one step backward. We cannot be fearful of what is to come. We have to keep advancing our country, bringing opportunity into the lives of our people and building a nation and society we can one day be proud to pass on to our children.

Here in Tamavua, you are a part of the largest population centre in our nation – the Suva-Nausori corridor. Through your efforts, this community has made major strides over the past decade and has attracted Fijians from all over the country. And in order to keep pace with your rapid development, the next generation needs to come equipped with skills and knowledge that meet the demands of the 21st century.

I know that the opening of this school has been a long time coming, that for the last 30 years, your community has sought to establish a high school here, in your community, and end your children’s ordeal of travelling great distances to get the education to which they are entitled. Past Governments failed to make your community a priority, but let me assure you all that those days are over. Because my Government doesn’t simply talk about the importance of education, we make access to quality education a reality.

Through our free education initiative for Years 1 to 13, our free text books and free fares for travelling students, all across our islands students have been able to attend school without burdening their families with financial worry. We have delivered on our promises, and there is no greater evidence of that than in the confident smiles of schoolchildren all throughout our islands.

Access to education is expanding all over Fiji. Just last week, I was in Ba opening a new secondary school, and now we are gathered today to celebrate the birth of this new high school. My Government has made the expansion of education options for our young people a top priority, and we want the next generation of Fijians to have every possible chance to succeed and do well. We want our schools to be in the communities they serve. We want our teachers to live among you and know the families of the students they have been entrusted to teach. And we want every Fijian – regardless of where they call home—to have access to the resources they require to better themselves and their communities.

To our pioneer students of Jeremiah College, congratulations on making history. This school belongs to you and your community – care for it, respect it and do your duty in paving the way for the generations of students that will follow.

I’m excited for what this new institution will allow your community to accomplish and look forward to seeing your young people work hard and find success.

Thank you again for your warm welcome. It is now my pleasure to officially declare the new Jeremiah College open.

Vinaka vakalevu. Thank you.


My Fellow Fijians, Bula vinaka and a very Happy New Year to you all.

As always, this is a time of celebration as we herald in a new year – 2017. Those celebrations are tempered by the fact that many Fijians have once again lost their possessions and crops in the recent tropical depression. But we can all be grateful that we have been spared the tragic loss of life that accompanied Tropical Cyclone Winston back in February.

Our thoughts and prayers tonight are especially with the families of the 44 Fijians who were killed by Winston. And we ask God to comfort them and give them strength.

New Year is also a time when many of us make resolutions, some of which we keep and others that fall by the wayside. But this year, there is one resolution that as Fijians, we have a solemn duty to uphold. And that is to effectively carry out the task we have been given to lead the world in the fight against climate change. And the threat to our oceans and seas posed by pollution and overfishing.

As many of you know, Fiji has been given the honour by the global community to be President of COP-23 – the United Nations climate negotiations to reduce carbon emissions and arrest the global warming that is triggering extreme weather events like Winston and causing the seas to rise.

As your Prime Minister, I will be guiding the deliberations of almost 200 countries as we gather in Bonn, Germany, in November to continue to seek a more decisive response on the part of the industrial nations. And to set aside funds to enable developing countries such as Fiji to adapt to the changes to their way of life that have been caused through no fault of our own.

In the months before that, I will be travelling the world to forge a consensus on the best way forward. And we will be holding a very important Pre-COP high-level gathering here in Fiji in October before the main Bonn conference the following month.

Tonight, I want to explain to each and every one of you the importance of this mission and why I will be spending so much of my time this year on COP-23 to make it the success that it must be for the sake of every person on the planet. And to explain why it is also crucial that we make a resounding success of the World Oceans Summit – which Fiji is cohosting with Sweden in New York in June.

First of all, I see it as my overriding responsibility as the leader of our nation to secure the future of the Fijian people. To protect our environment, our land and seas, not only for the sake of every Fijian today but for the generations to come.

Nothing is more important than this. Because if we can’t defend ourselves against extreme weather events and the rising seas; if we can’t protect our seas and our marine resources, then all our efforts to develop our nation will be jeopardised.

Everything depends on our ability to get the world to sit up and take notice of the unprecedented threat we currently face to our way of life.

We must persuade the industrial nations to pursue more radical action to reduce their carbon emissions that are causing global warming. We must get the world to stop degrading our oceans and seas.

I want to make one thing perfectly clear. This is not someone else’s problem. It is your problem, my problem. Our problem. And we must do everything possible to forge a strong partnership around the world to fix it.

Our success matters to every person in the path of the stronger and more frequent cyclones we are experiencing. Every family that has lost the roofs to their homes. Every farmer whose crop is damaged or destroyed by floods or drought. Everyone who goes fishing in our waters.

No-one is immune. No-one is exempt. And it is you and your family who I will be fighting for when I crisscross the world in the coming months trying to get my fellow leaders to act. And it is your interests that will be uppermost in my mind when I take the podium in New York in June and Bonn in November to lead the nations of the world in these discussions.

At the same time, I will be giving equal weight to our domestic agenda – our ongoing program of service delivery to the Fijian people, and the continuing reforms that have produced the longest- running period of economic growth in Fijian history. With our increased prosperity, we are connecting more Fijians than ever before to basic services such as water and electricity. And while our roads have again taken a battering from the elements, our road building and maintenance program remains a national priority, including the provision of proper street lighting in urban and rural areas.

And then there are all the other things that have been the hallmark of this Government – strengthening our education revolution; improving access to medical services and the quality of our hospitals; reforming the civil service to make it more efficient and professionally rewarding for those who serve the public; and continuing to refine and strengthen the investment climate in Fiji, which has never been better and is generating the current prosperity that we are determined to extend to every Fijian.

So my New Year message to my Ministers and MPs and the nation’s civil servants is that we must redouble our efforts in 2017 to serve our own people. While at the same time, doing everything we possibly can to fulfill our duty to the world to make COP-23 and the Oceans Summit an unqualified success.

My fellow Fijians, never before in the history of our nation has Fiji been entrusted with such a momentous task. Not only on behalf of ourselves and our Pacific neighbours but on behalf of the citizens of every other low-lying and vulnerable areas of the world.

That a nation of less than a million people has been given the job of forging a plan of action for the entire global community of 7.4 billion people is a phenomenal achievement.

• It recognises the increasing respect that Fiji enjoys – whether it is for our disproportionate contribution to UN Peacekeeping, our capacity-building in our island neighbours, our sporting prowess or the growing collection of Fijian Made quality goods and services that are penetrating markets throughout the world.

• It recognises our leadership role in the Pacific and on behalf of Small Island Developing States everywhere.

• It recognises the progress that we have made here in Fiji over the past decade, and especially the creation of our new democracy.

• And it recognises my Government’s concerted effort to make Fijian voices heard more strongly in the great forums of the world. And especially on the issues on which the well-being, even the survival, of our people depends.

Because of this, Fiji has never stood taller or more proudly in the community of nations. But I must also tell you that the job we are facing in New York and Bonn is immense. And I will need your prayers and your support to carry out the role that has been entrusted to Fiji.

As the year progresses, I intend to keep you fully informed of our progress. But let me give you two simple pieces of information that indicate the scale of the challenge we are facing.

At the Paris Conference on Climate Change at the end of 2015, the nations of the world agreed to reduce their carbon emissions to keep the temperature of the earth well below 2 degrees Celsius compared with that of the industrial age. This was hailed as a landmark achievement, an historic event. Yet even if all the commitments made in Paris are fully implemented, we are told that there is a 50 per cent chance of the global temperature being 2.8 degrees warmer than the industrial age. So we have a momentous challenge before us. And Fiji is pressing for a much more ambitious target if we are to have any hope of resolving this crisis – the 1.5 degree cap contained in the Suva Declaration of 2014.

Here’s another piece of sobering information: We still have a shortfall of as much as 80 per cent in the global financial arrangements that vulnerable countries such as Fiji will need to access to enable us to adapt to climate change. And to build our resilience to cyclones, droughts and rising sea levels. As things stand, the money we need just isn’t there. So we are going to make adaptation funding a core priority of our COP Presidency.

My fellow Fijians, this is a wonderful opportunity for Fiji. The rest of the world is looking to us for leadership and we intend to provide it. Not only at COP-23 and all the negotiations leading up to it but at the World Oceans Summit in June. And I draw great strength and great pride from the fact that I know the Fijian people share that commitment and will be supporting me all the way.

My fellow Fijians, 2017 is a year of immense challenge. But I am confident that the Fijian spirit – the Fijian character – is more than a match for that challenge. And, as a nation, we humbly ask for God’s Blessing as we embark on the great crusade that lies ahead.

My wife, Mary, joins me in wishing you every happiness in 2017. And May God Bless our beloved Fiji.

Vinaka vakalevu and Good Night.


Children of Vugalei District School,
Villagers of Naimasimasi,
Elders of the village
Ladies and Gentlemen

Bula vinaka and a very good morning to you all.

It’s a pleasure to be with you all here in Naimasimasi in Tailevu to open the newly renovated Vugalei District School – a project that has brought modern, functional educational facilities to the deserving students of Naimasimasi.

Being here with you all today is a true joy for me, because any opportunity that I have to meet with ordinary Fijians in their communities serves as a reminder of why my Government is so committed to uplifting our people. To hear your stories, to share in your optimism for our future and to spread the benefits of our growing economy renews my drive to work as hard as I can on behalf of the Fijian people so that we can continue bringing new advancements, infrastructure and opportunities to villages just like Naimasimasi all across our islands.

It is especially wonderful for me to be here today because I have found giving our children greater educational opportunities to be the most fulfilling part of my job as Prime Minister.

I am incredibly proud of the work we have already done to boost access to education and improve the quality our education systems. That work has given Fiji’s students an unprecedented range of educational options and helped create a culture of academic excellence that will reap benefits for generations to come.

When my Government first launched the free education initiative, we did so because our vision for this country extends far beyond any one term in office or, indeed, any one generation. We did so because we believed it to be our duty to make our children better prepared for the challenges of the future– so that they are suited to build on the success we have already achieved.

The renovation of this school is a part of that same vision. It represents an investment of $253,857, and I would like to thank the Republic of Fiji Military Force Engineers Regiment for putting those funds to good use through their work in renovating this institution.

The 190 students who are served by this school will now have buildings and facilities that they can be proud to call their own.
They can attend classes, and learn and grow alongside each other with the knowledge that this Government — that their nation — cares deeply about their success and achievement. That we are prepared to invest in educational infrastructure that is worthy of their enormous potential as future leaders of this country.

This newly renovated school sends a strong message to these students. It says that they matter, that their achievements matter and their futures matter. That if they work hard, there will be a reward.

For 77 years, the Vugalei District School has served your village and helped prepare your young people for adulthood. As your school looks to next chapter, know that my Government will be there — every step of the way — to make sure that your students and your community share fully in our nation’s progress.

Fiji is on the move. Every year we are taking our country to new heights, not only by growing our economy, but by bringing more Fijians into the mainstream. We are building a foundation of prosperity for our people, and today it is a great pleasure to again extend that foundation to the people of Naimasimasi Village.

To the students of Vugalei District School, please respect this significant investment in your education. That doesn’t only mean that you should properly care these new facilities, but also study hard and learn as much as you can. If you do so, you will earn the pride of your parents, your community and your nation.

I look forward to watching your community put this newly renovated school to good use.

Vinaka Vakalevu. Thank you.


The Honourable Attorney-General,
Members of the Judiciary from Fiji and overseas,
Your Excellency, Indonesia’s Ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva representing the CTI Core Group,
Your Excellencies, members of the Diplomatic Corps,
The Secretary General of the Association for the Prevention of Torture.
The Representative in the Pacific of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights,
The Commissioner of Police,
Representatives of civil society organisations,
Distinguished Guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Bula vinaka and a very good morning to you all.

Fiji is delighted to be hosting this regional workshop on the implementation of the United Nations Convention Against Torture in the Pacific. And while I’m told that it is largely technical in nature, I’m delighted as Prime Minister to be here to open it to explain the great strides that Fiji is making in the area of human rights. And to urge other Pacific nations to join Fiji and the other two countries in the region – Vanuatu and Nauru – that have already ratified UNCAT.

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, we have a positive story to tell in Fiji about our own effort to prevent torture and other cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment. And I want to convey that story in the overall context of the global campaign against such practices.

For a start, our Constitution – our supreme law – prohibits torture in our Bill of Rights and in very precise terms: Section Eleven unequivocally states that “every person has the right to freedom from torture of any kind, whether physical, mental or emotional, and from cruel, inhumane, degrading or disproportionately severe treatment or punishment”. It further states that “every person has the right to security of the person, which includes the right to be free from any form of violence from any source at home, school, work or in any other place”.

This statement of our values as a nation establishes, for the Fijian people, one of the strongest constitutional protections against torture in the world. In fact, our reservation to Article One of UNCAT is based on the fact that our own definition of torture is actually broader than that covered by the Convention because it extends to specific protection for our citizens at home, at school and at work.

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, we do not have – and never have had – a state-sanctioned policy of torture in Fiji. We do not have – and never have had – a state-sanctioned policy of inflicting cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment in Fiji.

What we have had are occasional problems with individuals or groups of people taking the law into their own hands and violating the human rights of others. But I repeat: no act of torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment has been sanctioned by the State. And this is in stark contrast with many other countries in the world, including some of the great democracies.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I accept that the issue of torture is a vexed one for many countries given the current global security climate and especially for those nations that are under direct attack in the war on terror. But it is a tragedy for the whole world that in the interests of state-security, democratic societies feel obliged to cling to practices that belong to another age and violate the most basic standards of human decency and human dignity.

Even that standard bearer for democracy – the United States of America – has resorted to torture, with the stated objective of protecting itself against a determined and ruthless enemy.

While the practice has now been banned by Presidential order, the CIA has admitted using water boarding against captured terrorist suspects, extracting information from them through a process that replicates the sensation of drowning.

As for the other pillar of UNCAT – the use of “Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment” – there is a stark example closer to home in Australia’s policy of detaining asylum seekers offshore, including in some of our Pacific neighbouring countries.

While Australia maintains that this policy is necessary to stem the tide of asylum seekers, it has clearly been at the expense of the rights of ordinary men, women and children seeking refuge from some of the most troubled places on earth.

Successive United Nations and other human rights reports have strongly criticised the conditions faced by asylum seekers being held on Nauru and Manus Island. The latest – less than three weeks ago by the UN’s Committee on the Rights of Children – condemns the physical and mental state of children being detained on Nauru.

Fiji shares the widespread concern in the international community about the position of asylum seekers in these detention centres, and especially women and children. As well as the wider issue of Australia dumping this problem on its Pacific neighbours when it clearly has the capacity to house these people within its own borders.

In the case of the United States and Australia with the examples I have given, these have been state policies – a deliberate course of action taken by democratically elected governments. America using an acknowledged method of torture to combat terrorism. Australia detaining innocent people in cruel, inhumane or degrading circumstances to protect the integrity of its borders.

What we have had by contrast in Fiji is vastly different though no less serious. Isolated instances of individuals or groups from the disciplined forces acting in an undisciplined way and resorting to acts of torture and other forms of punishment that violate the human rights of their fellow citizens.

The same conduct has occurred from time to time in the law enforcement agencies of larger democracies, including Australia and New Zealand. And while they can never be condoned, whatever the setting, the difference in Fiji’s case is that such events have been politicised. We are singled out for condemnation, for behaviour that also occurs in the jurisdictions of our critics.

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen. I am not excusing such behaviour in any shape or form. I merely ask that Fiji be judged by the same standards that apply to any nation. And I want to make Fiji’s position on this issue absolutely clear once and for all.

We do not tolerate human rights abuses of any kind. They are legally and morally unacceptable. And we are determined to bring the perpetrators of such abuses to justice.

The record shows that we are doing so – that our laws are being enforced.

Our Police Commissioner is currently investigating whether excessive force was used in the recent apprehension of a group of suspected criminals in Navua that was captured on video by a passer-by. We also have a trial in Lautoka for the alleged rape and subsequent death of a detainee, Vilikesa Soko.

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, it is also worth placing such issues in a wider social context.

We have long had a culture in Fiji of people resorting to violence. Whether it is against women in the home, instilling discipline in our children or the police attempting to extract confessions from criminal suspects.

This culture of what we call the buturaki – the beating – is deeply ingrained in parts of the Fijian psyche. But it is simply not acceptable in the modern age. So we have embarked on a process of culture change starting in the nation’s schools. There, we have banned corporal punishment in the hope that if children aren’t beaten institutionally, they don’t grow up beating others. And we are saying far more forcefully than we have said in the past that violence in any form has no place in Fijian life.

We are also making it clear in the ranks of the disciplined forces through a process of education and deterrence that we have a policy of zero tolerance for torture and other human rights abuses. Whatever may have occurred in the relative turmoil of the past, we have drawn a line under such behaviour. A line under the past. The provisions in our Constitution prohibiting such practices must be respected and without exception. And this applies especially to our law enforcement agencies.

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, we are also seeking the engagement of the international community to assist us in this effort. I want to publicly thank the European Union for its invaluable assistance to Fiji through our Access to Justice Program. And I want to thank both the British Government and the United Nations Development Program for the contribution they are making to raise standards in the Fiji Police.

We regard Britain – with its tradition of enlightened policing and its historical links to Fiji – as a strong role model. And we are seeking closer ties with the law enforcement agencies of the United Kingdom. In particular, we seek assistance to improve the training of our police officers in modern investigative and questioning techniques. Because better training is clearly the key to a better overall performance on the part of our law enforcement officers.

Britain is already partnering with us on a six month pilot project at the Totogo Police Station in Suva in what is called First Hour Procedure – providing every suspect with legal aid assistance within the first hour of arrest. And in digitally recording police caution interviews with suspects to provide greater transparency in the arrest and detention procedure.

We intend – after this pilot program – to introduce First Hour Procedure and the digital recording of caution interviews throughout Fiji. So that there is no doubt whatsoever when cases reach the courts about the content of police interviews or the veracity of the process. It will bring to an end any suggestion that confessions are being extracted by force.

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, I know that many of the challenges we face in Fiji will be familiar to some of you from other Pacific nations. But I urge you all to seriously consider ratifying UNCAT. Fiji – in common with many other nations – had reservations about endorsing all of its clauses and your governments may well decide to have similar reservations. But this is no impediment to ratification. And if more Pacific nations do so, this will send a powerful signal from our own region to the rest of the world about our commitment to human rights and human dignity.

I want to close by saying that Fiji stands ready to assist any of our neighbours with the ratification process. On behalf of the Fijian people, I warmly thank the members of the Convention Against Torture Initiative. And especially the representative of the core group, His Excellency the Permanent Representative of Indonesia to the United Nations in Geneva.

I also want to especially mention the Secretary General of the Association for the Prevention of Torture, Mark Thomson. Mark grew up in Fiji and we were childhood neighbours at Natabua. So welcome home, Mark, and vinaka vakalevu for what you are doing to promote the rights of people around the world.

A warm welcome to all our international visitors and I hope that beyond the conference venue, you get to see some of our beautiful country and experience our world famous Fijian hospitality. And I now have great pleasure to officially open this regional workshop on implementing the United Nations Convention Against Torture.

Vinaka vakalevu. Thank you.


Honourable Ministers,
Your Excellencies, members of the Diplomatic Corps.
The respective Chairs of the Fiji-Australia, Fiji-New Zealand, Australia-Fiji and New Zealand-Fiji Business Councils,
Our exporters and importers, businessmen and women,
Distinguished guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Bula vinaka and a very good morning to you all,

Fiji treasures its close links with the people of Australia and New Zealand – our deep and longstanding friendships and our economic ties. So I’m delighted to join you all today to formally open this tripartite forum of the Fiji, Australia and New Zealand Business Councils.

You are the glue that binds our economic relationships together through the trade you conduct and the investments you have made in Fiji. And increasingly, the trade and investment that Fijian companies conduct in Australia and New Zealand.

Last year, the combined value of Fiji’s trade with Australia and New Zealand reached one-point-six-six-eight billion dollars ($1.668). This represents 27 per cent of our nation’s total trade with the world in 2015. And we place the highest importance on increasing this trade for our economy and the prosperity of every Fijian.

Ladies and Gentlemen, as you all know, I am assuming the position of Foreign Minister on Saturday on top of my duties as Prime Minister, Minister for Sugar and iTaukei Affairs. I intend to give Fiji’s relationships with Australia and New Zealand the high level of attention they deserve. And I intend to work closely with my Minister for Industry, Trade and Tourism, the Honourable Faiyaz Koya, to put trade at centre stage of our diplomatic efforts and streamline some of our existing processes.

I intend first of all to strengthen the relationship between the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Tourism. Too often, trade hasn’t been given the importance it deserves in our diplomatic relations with other countries. So I will be insisting that the two ministries work more closely together. And for our diplomatic missions overseas to be more focused on facilitating trade, with particular emphasis on promoting the Fijian Made brand of quality products and services.

I am convinced that there are significant opportunities that still haven’t been tapped. And my message to our Heads of Mission – High Commissioners Yogesh Punja in Canberra and Filimoni Waqabaca in Wellington – as well as our Trade Commissioner in Sydney Zarak Khan, is to redouble our efforts to boost our performance and take it to another level. Both our High Commissioners and Trade Commissioner are in the room today and I urge you all to engage with them personally as we move forward together.

Minister Koya will be speaking to you later about the finer details of the trading relationship, including clarifying Fiji’s position on the PacerPlus negotiations. But I want to use my own address to explore the wider parameters of our relationship and the political framework in which it takes place. And especially to give you all a detailed briefing of Fiji’s position on the events of the past week that have again produced a hiccup in our diplomatic relations with New Zealand. It is something that does not affect our trade or our people-to-people exchanges in any way at all. But it is definitely something we need to work on in the interests of our wider relationship and future cooperation.

Let me begin by saying this: in common with most Fijians, I have a great deal of affection for Kiwis and Aussies as people. I appreciate their down-to-earth, unpretentious natures; their irreverent sense of humour; and especially their eagerness to come to the help of their mates when they are in trouble.

In common with other Fijians, I will never forget the way New Zealand and Australia responded so quickly and so generously to our desperate need after Tropical Cyclone Winston struck these islands seven months ago. We are neighbours and friends and always will be. But we must work harder to align our sometimes testy political and diplomatic relationship more closely with the warm personal and vibrant commercial ties we share as people.

It is the message I will be giving the Australian Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, when I meet him face to face in New York next week during the United Nations General Assembly. And it is the message that I bring to you all today.

There is – to put it bluntly – a great deal of room for improvement in the quality of the relationships between our countries. We all know that New Zealand and Australia did a great deal after the events of 2006 to damage Fiji. From our perspective, we believe both countries fundamentally failed to grasp the reasons why we needed radical intervention to finally produce a level playing field for all Fijians and create a strong foundation for our economy. But as I told the New Zealand Prime Minister to his face when he came to visit us in June, we have delivered on our promise to return Fiji to parliamentary rule with our first genuine democracy of equal votes of equal value. And we are eager to let bygones be bygones and move forward together to a greater level of understanding.

That requires a greater degree of mutual respect in the conduct of our relationship than we are currently witnessing. In particular, I have been very disappointed over the past week about what I regard as the highhanded manner in which Fiji has again been treated by New Zealand.
You may have noticed the other day John Key saying that he hoped the Fijian Government wasn’t going to be quote – silly – about enforcing the provisions of our Public Order Act. With due respect to my Honourable Friend, I don’t think “silly” was the appropriate word to use in the circumstances. Just as I don’t think it was appropriate for him to say last year that I was, quote, “mouthing off” about the Pacific Islands Forum.

Being “silly” or “mouthing off” is what a parent might say about a wayward child or a teacher might say about a problem student. It doesn’t suggest a relationship of equals. On the contrary, it carries a distinct tone of superiority. Some might even call it patronising or condescending. But I certainly don’t think it shows appropriate respect for a sovereign nation and a democratically elected leader who is acting in the best interests of the Fijian people and Fijian economy. And let me explain why.
Anyone with more than a superficial knowledge of Fiji knows that we have had a history of civil unrest at various stages of our development. Both in the colonial era and after Independence 46 years ago.

In 1959, under British rule, a bitter industrial dispute led to rioting in Suva in which shops were looted and a military curfew was imposed. During the coup of 1987, rampaging extremists, egged on by politicians, attacked ordinary people on the streets and in their homes. In the 2000, our capital was trashed when police stood by while crowds looted central Suva and set fire to a number of buildings. And we are determined that such outrages will never happen again. It is not good for human dignity and it is not good for business.

It was the British who introduced the Public Order Act and this Act – with various amendments – continues to this day. It exists to preserve public order and safety. It is there to protect the interests of every citizen. Because in each of these instances over the years, civil unrest damaged the economy and damaged people’s jobs.

The Public Order Act then and now requires anyone wanting to hold a public meeting to apply to the Police for a permit. So the Police are aware of what is happening and can allocate the appropriate resources to cover any eventuality. Because many of our problems in the past have had their origins in such gatherings, when people have been incited to cause trouble.

On Monday of last week, a group of mainly politicians held or attended a meeting in Suva without applying for a permit. Without a permit, any such meeting would be viewed as an unlawful gathering and the police acted accordingly.
Several people were detained for questioning. Their human rights were respected. No one was beaten and no-one was manhandled. They were able to obtain legal counsel. They were fed and by their own accounts to the media, were well treated. And they were released within the 48-hour period that the law allows someone to be detained without having to be produced in court.

They are now free while the police file goes to the independent office of the Director of Public Prosecutions for a decision of whether they should be prosecuted. And our courts will also deal with this independently if the DPP decides to prosecute these individuals. It is precisely the same standard of due process as in New Zealand or Australia.

I note that even John Key says the process has been lawful. So why has this become an international incident? Why is the spotlight being turned on Fiji simply because it insists on its laws being upheld? Why all the unwarranted “expressions of concern” from foreign governments and organisations? The baseless allegations of human rights abuses? The absurd motion against Fiji introduced in the New Zealand Parliament? When all we are doing is enforcing a statute that our history tells us is not only necessary but vital to our national interest and economic well-being.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I will not apologise for doing whatever it takes within the law to keep our people safe and our economy stable. We have had a record seven years of economic growth, with all that entails for the prosperity of our people. And nothing must be allowed to get in the way of providing them with the opportunities they deserve.

I promised the Fijian people that the nightmare many suffered in the past arising from the successive breakdowns of law and order will never be repeated. And I intend to keep that promise.

The rule of law must be upheld. And while any law remains on the statute books, the Police have a solemn duty to enforce it. It is only the democratically elected representatives of the people in Parliament who can change it now that we have returned to parliamentary rule.

As it happens, His Excellency the President announced when he opened the Parliament on Monday that the Public Order Act will be among a range of laws to be reviewed in the coming session. And if Parliament eventually decides that it is time to change the law, that’s when it will happen and not a moment before.

My message to the New Zealand and other governments and to our other domestic and international critics is this: Let the Parliament do its work and please respect the law as it stands.

Until now, we haven’t lectured you about the allegations of human rights abuses in your own countries. These include the extreme disadvantage suffered by indigenous people in New Zealand and Australia and in the case of Australia, the inhumane treatment of asylum seekers. We also refrain from commenting on the stark double standards of nations that preach to us yet fail to criticise the flagrant human rights abuses of their larger and more powerful allies. So please do us the courtesy of respecting our own processes and allow our elected representatives to do what is necessary in the interests of the Fijian people and Fijian economy as a whole.

Ladies and Gentlemen, the Government is determined to provide you with the confidence – the certainty – that your investment in and trade with Fiji is safe. And given Fiji’s history, we can only maintain that confidence if we display zero tolerance for civil unrest or other forms of disruption. No more coups. No more mutinies or rebellions. A nation at peace with itself and eager to reach out to the world.

We have put an end to the lost years in Fiji when everyone wondered what would happen next. Whether their businesses or their homes would be threatened again. When their jobs might suddenly vanish.

We are more secure as a nation because we are more unified as a nation than at any time in our history. Everyone with equal opportunity, with a deep sense of focus on the economy and everyone a Fijian. And riding a wave of tremendous optimism in the wake of our Rugby Sevens gold medal winning performance at the Rio Olympics.

We are supercharging our economy by investing more in improving our infrastructure than at any time in our history – better roads, better airports and more efficient ports. Our telecommunications have also been elevated to global standards. And we are continuing, with our education revolution, to improve the skills of our people, who already comprise a talented English- speaking workforce at the hub of the Pacific and the crossroads to other markets.

Above all, we are a nation that has come to terms with its past, is unquestionably on the move and has a wonderful future ahead of it.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Fiji is open for business. And on behalf of the Fijian people, thank you all for the contribution you are making to help us to build a more prosperous future. I look forward to meeting as many of you as possible this morning. And now have the great pleasure to declare this joint forum of our respective business councils open.

Vinaka vakalevu. Thank you.


My fellow Fijians,

What a wonderful day to be here in Nadi. To be in the West. What a wonderful day to be Fijian! To be able to say again: Go Fiji Go! Go Fiji Go! Go Fiji Go!

To our returning Olympic Team, welcome home! You have all brought great credit to our nation. And especially our Rugby Seven’s Olympic Gold medalists – coach Ben Ryan, captain Osea Kolinisau and the rest of our world-beating team.

And to all of you – my fellow Fijians – thank you for turning out in such numbers here in Prince Charles Park this afternoon for this wonderful celebration.

As Prime Minister, I cannot tell you how good it is to be home after being in Rio De Janeiro on your behalf to support our Olympic team. To arrive back in the best little country in the world with these wonderful ambassadors for Fiji. Truly the pride of our nation.

Under the leadership of our Chef De Mission, Cathy Wong, our sportsmen and women have, without exception, given the world a lesson in sportsmanship and brought great credit to Fiji. You played your hearts out in Rio and did so with determination, dignity and in the true spirit of Olympic competition. You have set a standard of behaviour for the whole world to follow and are all wonderful role models for young Fijians.

Even if you fell short of winning a medal, you should feel very proud of being good enough to make it to Rio. The important thing is to compete. And you have all done so under our national flag in manner that has made your nation very proud.

I personally saw many of you not only do very well in your various events but set a standard of behaviour for the whole world to follow. You have certainly all been wonderful role models for young Fijians. And I hope that the happy memories of these Games will stay with you for the rest of your lives.

In the case of our Rugby Seven’s team, you went for Gold and you have brought back Gold! Hold them up Boys! Gold, Gold Gold! Go Fiji Go!

My Fellow Fijians, this is a wonderful day in our nation’s history. Just as it was when Fiji came to a halt last Friday week to watch our World Champions beat Great Britain in the first Rugby Sevens competition ever to be held at the Olympic Games.
We have been going to the Olympics since 1956. And while we have always done our best, unfortunately our best wasn’t enough to win us a medal.

The drought broke in 2012 when Iliesa Delana won Gold at the Paralympics in London. And let us never forget the thrill of that victory and the way our spirits were lifted by the brave man who is now my Assistant Minister for Sports.

But in Rio, we have really come of age as a sporting nation – storming to Gold at the summer Olympics and in the one sport we play better than anyone else.

When the International Olympic Committee introduced Rugby Sevens for the first time, this was it. This was our moment. And what a wonderful moment it is.

I want to say to the many young people who are here today – the future of our nation: You are all very lucky to be growing up in truly a golden age for Fiji. In the years to come, you will relive these memories over and over. You will pass them on to your own children and grandchildren. Because it is an epic moment. Among our proudest days as a nation. A time to remember forever.

To a massive global audience, we showed the world what Fijians are made of. The character of our people. As a nation, we may be small but we are strong. We may have limited resources but we are determined. And we are unbeatable, especially when we play together effectively as a team.
Millions of viewers on five continents watched as we gave the world a lesson in how seven’s rugby should be played. As we did so, the attention of the whole world focussed on our tiny group of islands. And for one brief shining moment, we were at the centre of the world stage.

On the day of our win, more people searched for Fiji on the Internet than for any other subject. So boys, not only have you brought home Gold. You have seized the spotlight for Fiji in a way that no-one else has ever done before. And in a manner that is sure to have all sorts of benefits for every Fijian in the months and years ahead. More international visitors. More jobs. An even stronger economy. And something even more important. A tremendous boost to our pride and self-confidence as a nation.
Because of you, Fiji stands taller in the world today than ever before. Because of you, the Fijian spirit has soared higher than ever before. Wherever people live, they saw that Fijian spirit in action in Rio. And not only were they deeply impressed, it lifted their own spirits too.
Our performance inspired people who have never visited Fiji and have barely heard of us. So the kailas weren’t just shouted in Fiji. As we powered ahead on the field in Rio, the sight of our small nation punching above its weight captured people’s hearts and imaginations the world over.

It tapped into the deep-seated longing of all humans for heroes. For underdogs transforming themselves through sheer willpower into champions. And all over the world, ordinary people were willing us on.

Even in Great Britain many people were saying Go Fiji Go! And we went for it! We delivered. We have proved that with teamwork, nothing is impossible. We have proved that with proper leadership and inspiration, nothing can hold us back. And that is why I want to thank you all so warmly for setting a standard for every Fijian to follow. For the world to follow.

And it wasn’t just on the field. Your spontaneous action in kneeling before Her Royal Highness Princess Ann to receive your medals also sent our spirits soaring. We are a competitive people. We are a proud people. But nothing makes us prouder than to see our champions upholding our precious traditions of behaving with modesty and respect.
Why was the world so impressed? Why were so many stories written about what happened when you received your medals? Because you gave the world a lesson from our tiny corner of the planet about the proper way to behave in victory. A lesson about good sportsmanship. Of honouring those who honour you.

So we also thank you for the example you set for young people everywhere. And also for showing us that no matter how important individual effort is, it is teamwork that ultimately counts the most. In this case, our Sevens Rugby team setting a standard for all of us to emulate – every single citizen – as members of Team Fiji. One nation. One people. Working together with our eyes on the future. With our eyes set on achieving greatness.

Ben, thank you for your inspirational leadership and the dedication and discipline you brought to this victory. For the way you moulded these talented men into a world class fighting force. For believing in them. For believing in victory. For believing in Fiji.
The fact that so many Fijians have named their children after you shows the huge place you occupy in our hearts. We thank you for showing us a path to victory and leading us there.
I think you already know, Ben, that you may go on to bigger things but they won’t necessarily be better things. Because you will never be more fondly regarded, never more loved, than you are in Fiji.
In the world of rugby, the big money certainly isn’t here in Fiji. But the biggest hearts definitely are. And every Fijian joins me in saying vinaka vakalevu! Wherever the future takes you, the very best wishes of all of us will always go with you and your family.

Osea and the rest of the boys: I cannot tell you how much it meant for Mary and I to sit in the stands in Rio beside our fellow Fijians and witness at first hand your magic on the field. I have never seen Sevens rugby played so well. And I know that the thrill and the pride I felt was shared by every Fijian watching at home. In every school hall. In every community, every office, every factory. A surge of joy that spilled onto the streets and brought us together as a nation in a unique and very special way.

My Fellow Fijians, I will have more to say at the ANZ Stadium in Suva tomorrow about how I think we can to tap this surge of pride and unity to move our beloved Fiji forward. But for the moment – to all of you in our Olympic team who played your hearts out in Rio – please enjoy the moment to the fullest.

You are back in your beloved Fiji and every Fijian joins me in saying: Welcome home and congratulations on a job well done.

Congratulations for inspiring us. Congratulations for making us proud.
Vinaka vakalevu. Thank you. And again – Go Fiji Go!


Your Excellencies,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Congratulations on a successful first day. Our valuable discussions at the Tok Tok sessions have set the stage for tomorrow’s Summit. And we have – together — highlighted challenges and identified promising strategies to fight for the healthy future of our oceans and nations.

Throughout our discussions we saw how personally the issue of climate change, and the resulting rise in sea levels, affects us in the Pacific. Climate change is a threat to our culture, our security and our very existence, and that creates a stark reality for individuals and communities. Today, we were able to harness our well-founded concern and passion for these issues and hold meaningful talks on some of the most pressing challenges we face in working to avoid where possible and mitigate where necessary the ravages of climate change.

From the implementation of the Paris Agreement to the building up of our ocean’s resilience, we’ve gone far beyond a surface-level understanding of these issues. We’ve examined, in-depth, the practicality and feasibility of a number of solutions. Solutions that can change the lives of every man, woman and child who calls the Pacific home. This has been a day marked by progress, mutual understanding and commitment. And I was proud to be a part of it.

Thank you to our facilitators for helping lead the sessions and keeping our talks focused. Our productive discussions and promising outcomes are owed in no small part to your leadership throughout the pre-summit. And thank you to the Pacific Islands Development Forum for making this event possible.

The success of any conference can be measured by the passion and contributions of its participants. It is clear that our participants today have been fully engaged in our sessions and have offered consistently meaningful insights. Whether you are here from Government, civil society or the private sector, thank you again for being here. Thank you for showing your commitment to addressing the threat of climate change – the greatest single threat facing our world today. Your voices, your knowledge and your expertise form the backbone of our campaign to alert the world to our peril—and to jolt the industrialised nations into action to save our people and protect our oceans for future generations.

It is up to us to keep our oceans beautiful and sustainable. It is up to us to keep our nations safe and our people’s future secure. Those are sacred duties, and we can never afford to take them lightly. We need to understand the science, we need to harness all of our available resources and we need to take advantage of opportunities, such as this Pre-Summit, to strengthen the bonds between us, work together and share ideas and solutions. There is simply too much at stake for us to do otherwise. Or else we risk passing on an ocean environment to our children and grandchildren that is stripped of the bounty that we were privileged to enjoy.

So ladies and gentlemen, the work is only beginning. If our words today are to become actions, your dedication and commitment must extend past this week’s events and onto the global stage. There, we face everything from inertia to reluctance to staunch opposition from special interests that will continue to pollute our oceans if we leave them unchallenged. They will avert their eyes from the problem because they don’t like what they will see. And they will not put their shoulders to the wheel for a solution because they think it is too hard and would require too much sacrifice. We cannot let them avoid their responsibility. That the message we have sent loudly and clearly to the global community today. And I look forward to sending another strong message at tomorrow’s Summit.

Vinaka vakalevu. Thank you.