PRIME MINISTER’S ADDRESS AS HE HANDS OVER COMMAND OF THE RFMF

Today marks the end of an era – as I leave the RFMF after having had the immense honour and privilege of being your Commander for the past fifteen years.

It also marks the beginning of an era, as the baton of leadership passes to your new Commander – an officer of the highest professional calibre and integrity, Colonel Mosese Tikoitoga.

Colonel Tikoitoga is well known to you all as your Land Force Commander and has given more than 32 years of distinguished service to the RFMF.
I am confident that you will give him the same loyalty and support that you have given me over the past 15 years.

Today, I leave behind my 39-year career in the RFMF to become a civilian and lead a political movement to contest the 2014 general election – a political movement that we all started together.

I have to admit to a feeling of regret because I am leaving a job that I dearly love. I will miss you all and the camaraderie of military life.

I am intensely conscious of the solemn duty that rests with me to continue the revolution that we began together seven years ago – to create a new Fiji, a better Fiji for ourselves and for future generations.

As you all know, the 2013 Constitution requires me to relinquish my military career if I want to contest the forthcoming election. It is the supreme law of the land and the blueprint for the new Fiji we are building.

Like all Fijians, I am obliged to obey the terms of that Constitution and I do so willingly. I solemnly pledge before you all today that I will do everything in my power to uphold the 2013 Fijian Constitution. And I ask you all to do the same.

The RFMF is the guardian of the nation and the protector of every Fijian. And this duty is now guided by our nation’s Constitution, which it is your solemn duty to defend and protect.

I take with me as I leave some wonderful memories of comradeship and shared experiences, of the many challenges of a career at sea and on land, moments of high drama, tragedy and crisis. And, of course, the many laughs and good times we’ve shared over the years.

But above all, I take with me a feeling of intense pride – pride in the RFMF, pride in our servicemen and women, pride in our service to every Fijian, pride in our beloved nation.

I especially think at this moment of our men and women overseas. 508 personnel serving in the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force in the Golan Heights, Syria; 328 in the Multi-National Force and Observers in Sinai; 195 in the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq; 23 in the United Nations Mission in Liberia; 20 in the United Nations mission in Darfur, Sudan; 15 in the United Nations Mission in South Sudan. And two in RAMSI, Solomon Islands.

We are not only assisting our fellow Fijians when they need us most. We are assisting vulnerable ordinary people in other parts of the world. We punch above our weight in global affairs. We are respected by other military forces – because we serve.

That record of service is something that every Fijian can take pride in.

As a Force, we are committed to the highest standards of morality and conduct. We must always do what is right and just, not what is expedient. And it is our duty to lead – to set an example in our public lives and in our personal lives – of service to others, of dedication to moving our nation forward, of integrity, of honour, of patriotism. Of always putting Fiji first.

I urge you all to examine your own lives and set them against those high standards. Ask yourself. Am I living a moral life? Am I living a life of integrity, honour and service? Am I honest and do I speak the truth? Am I a role model for every Fijian child? Because the essence of leadership is to lead by example. It’s embodied in a great saying that we must always remember – “Don’t do as I say. Do as I do”.

If every man and woman in the RFMF leads by personal example, then together as a force, we lead by example. We show every Fijian that we are worthy of their respect. We lead the nation on the march to greatness. That is our vision. That is our dream. And it begins here, with every one of us.

Sadly, this is the moment when “us” becomes “you” – you, the men and women of the RFMF, me, from today, a civilian Prime Minister. The time has come for me to say goodbye. The time has come to welcome the new Commander.

My 39 years in the service of the RFMF have been truly wonderful.

And thank you again for your loyalty and support. I extend every good wish to your new Commander and bid you all farewell.

God Bless the Republic of Fiji Military Forces.

God Bless our beloved Fiji.