PRIME MINISTER VOREQE BAINIMARAMA’S SPEECH AT SUVA’S CHINESE NEW YEAR CELEBRATIONS

Bula vinaka, a very good morning to you all, Ni Hao

I’m delighted to be here with my family to join you in celebrating the most important festival on the Chinese calendar.

More than a billion people in China itself and many millions more Chinese around the world are marking the same occasion – when the Year of the Snake becomes the Year of the Horse.

So a very Happy and Prosperous New Year to you all!

This is traditionally a time when Chinese people everywhere return home to celebrate with family and friends and Fiji is no exception.

In fact I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a big gathering of Chinese people in Fiji before. It’s certainly a sign of how vibrant the community is that this celebration is taking place on such a grand scale.

The history of the Chinese community in Fiji stretches back almost 200 years. And while they may have been relatively small in number, Chinese Fijians have made an immense contribution to our national life and continue to do so.

We are building One Nation and you are all an important part of that effort.

The Year of the Horse is going to be a momentous year for Fiji. This sign in the Chinese zodiac symbolises strength, loyalty and hard work – all attributes that we will need as we move towards establishing our new democracy, with opportunity and justice for all – without discrimination.

The coming weeks and months promise to be challenging and also immensely exciting. Everything my Government and I have worked for over the past seven years is coming to a climax with the general election before the end of September. When the new Parliament is chosen – with every Fijian 18 years and over having an equal say for the first time – our revolution will be largely complete. But I want to stress that the task of building our new and better Fiji will be only just beginning. The foundation will have been laid but the real hard work is still to come.

We cannot afford to deviate as a nation from the brighter course that we have set ourselves. We have created a level playing field for every Fijian child. We are giving them free primary and secondary school education and an unprecedented opportunity to go on to higher studies. We are building a smarter country. We are delivering basic services like electricity and water to many ordinary Fijians for the first time. Our nation stands proud and tall. But these opportunities are just the start. We must build on the progress we have made so far to take Fiji to much greater heights – to be the pre-eminent Pacific nation, a beacon of hope and an example to the rest of the world.

As you know, in some weeks I will stand down from the Military and a job I have dearly loved. I will be forming a political movement and I will be asking every Fijian – no matter who they are – to join me. Together, our task will be to fight a battle of ideas to determine the future of our nation. And in that battle of ideas, we intend to win.

We will not do so with arrogance. We will not do so by lying about the past or the future for that matter. On the contrary, we will offer a fresh vision for every Fijian and humbly seek their support. That vision will be laid out in detail during the election campaign. But I can tell you now that its foundation will be continuing stability, a healthy and vigorous economy and a climate that encourages new investment to create and sustain. The foundation of this stability ladies and gentlemen is the new Fijian constitution which amongst other things creates common and equal citizenry a prerequisite to any modern and successful nation-state.

Our young people of course want interesting, satisfying jobs. They want to travel, to see the world, to have their horizons broadened. They want satisfying, fulfilling lives. They want to make a difference. They care about our environment. They want sustainable development. They are our future – the new Fiji – and we must work as hard as we can, with them, to see their dreams fulfilled.

Thanks to my Government, our young people now have equal opportunity and the best chance Fijians have ever had to get an education and get on in life. It is not a handout. It is a leg-up.
It is to empower the youth of our country. It is to build individual and national capacity. It is to ensure that we have educated and wise leaders to take Fiji forward.

So Ladies and Gentlemen, this is the start of a landmark year, an auspicious year, full of hope and promise.

I thank you all for the opportunity to share this moment with you, to catch up with old friends and make some new ones. Let us all join in celebrating the Year of the Horse.

Vinaka Vakalevu,
Thank you, Cher Cher Ni.