The Honourable Minister for Housing,
The Honourable Minister for Youth and Sports
Distinguished Guests;
Ladies and Gentlemen.

Bula vinaka and a very good afternoon to you all.

I’m delighted to be here today in Davuilevu to mark another milestone in my Government’s campaign to encourage healthy lifestyles among the Fijian people – the opening of this multi-purpose sports facility on the Reverend Cargill Grounds.

While Fiji is doing well in so many ways, while we are knocking down barriers to opportunity, laying the foundation for even great prosperity and leading the global campaign against climate change, our society is currently faced with a severe crisis of health – those many lives being cut short by non-communicable diseases. And the prevalence of these life-threatening illnesses is something my Government is not prepared to tolerate.

These diseases are called “non-communicable” because they aren’t transferred from person to person. You cannot catch them from someone who is suffering from them. These diseases are symptoms of unhealthy lifestyles. When we don’t use our God-given talents and ability, when we fail to keep ourselves moving and don’t pay attention to what we are eating, we all put ourselves at-risk.

Near the end of last year, I had the chance to deliver a national statement to the European Commission on Sport Diplomacy. I told them what I will tell you all again today, that we in Fiji are witness to a startling paradox. That while we are looked to around the world as a sporting powerhouse, a small nation whose athletes again and again find success on the international stage, we suffer one of the highest rates of non-communicable diseases in the world. Preventable diseases, such as hypertension, diabetes and heart disease take more lives in Fiji than any other cause.
Good health is something we need to consistently work toward and we all need to adopt the mentality that it is our own discipline and drive that will stave off these deadly diseases. That is why my Government is so committed to expanding access and improving the quality of sporting facilities throughout our islands. We are investing in sports at the grassroots level, in parks, courts and sporting facilities such as the one being opened today.

This new facility is going to become a tremendous source of joy and energy for your communities. I can speak to that from my own experience, as next to my office I get to see Fijians from all walks of life enjoying the newly renovated grounds at Albert Park. Since its opening, every day you can find the grounds full of people exercising and keeping themselves fit.

All throughout the country, there are parks and sporting facilities available, and you don’t need to be the next rugby, football or soccer, or netball superstar to make sport a major part of your life. Anyone can benefit from getting out of the house and using our vast network of athletic facilities to live more active lives – to make the healthy choice to get moving. I appeal to every Fijian to not only make sport a bigger part of your lives, but to encourage your loved ones to do the same. To go out and play netball, volleyball, football or soccer or rugby. To get family members of any age active and involved, because it is never too late to get started, it is never too late to start making healthier choices and be proactive about our health. And I look forward to seeing this facility used by Fijians of all ages and from all walks of life.

This new facility was constructed at a cost of $250,000 – a worthy investment in the health and well-being of your communities. Please make good use of it, use it to be proactive about your own health and encourage everyone in your communities to also take full advantage.

I’m very proud that my Government has shown itself again and again to be a caring Government. That we have made great strides to ensure that the health of the Fijian people is a top priority. Not only through the construction of athletic facilities, but through the expansion and upgrade of hospitals and health centres. Just down the road, for example, we constructed the Nakasi Health Centre for your community to have greater access to quality and reliable healthcare. So it is a two-pronged effort. We are giving the Fijian people the ability to maintain their own health and also providing accessible and effective healthcare for when it is needed.
Thank you all for the welcome you have afforded me and my delegation.

I look forward to working alongside all of you to find other ways to benefit your community – whether it be through strengthening service delivery, improving infrastructure or bringing in other new development projects.
With those few words, it is my pleasure to officially open this new multi-purpose sports facility.

Vinaka vakalevu. Thank you.