Bula vinaka and a good afternoon to you all.
It’s a pleasure to be with you here today on the second day of my Tour of the West. It has been my honour to see first-hand the way Government is spreading the benefits of our growing economy to the Western region and to listen to what the residents tell me about what they need. I’ve been able to commission new infrastructure and new buildings and equipment to schools, village and even, sports clubs, and, over the next few days, I’ll continue opening new infrastructure projects all over the West.
But this tour isn’t only about infrastructure. My Government is doing valuable work to spread Government programs and services that are designed to end marginalisation and insecurity in the Western Division. Today, I am here to do just that. Here in the Naidovi Settlement I will be distributing approval notices to lease for 32 families. These will grant 99-year leases to these families – giving them a sense of ownership and restoring their sense of dignity.
Land is an extremely valuable resource. It provides stability, it provides security and it creates wealth. For too long, the families of Naidovi have lived without those assurances and benefits. For too long, you have been made to feel like outsiders in your own community. For too long, “illegality” has been forced upon you. For too long, you have struggled to secure permanent residence – and that struggle ends today.
These approval notices will grant you and your families long-term leases. This will allow you to make secure investments on your land and in your communities without any fear that your hard work will be ripped away from you. This will allow you to pass those improvements onto your children, and build wealth for your future generations.
These approval notices really form a solid foundation for you to stand on and build on as you find new ways to develop your community. Now when you build your homes, you can do so with the certainty that it is on land you can claim. You won’t have to fear that someone will force you to leave. You won’t have to fear that someone will exploit you. Your destiny is in your own hands. You are now the masters of your future. You can borrow money from mainstream banks to build better homes and they will use this land as collateral.
My Government has set the stage for you to do great things, so use this opportunity to build up your homes and your community, and rest assured that it will stand for a long time to come.
Not every family is receiving this assistance today, but I promise that we will not forget the rest of you. Those who are not receiving approval notices today will have another chance. We will do what is necessary to see that you are a part of the second stage of the handover.
Every Fijian has value. Every Fijian is precious. And every Fijian deserves an equal chance to prosper. You all are valued members of this community and this nation, and my Government will stand by you. You are a part of our plans for the Naidovi settlement for the next 99 years.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Regularizing informal settlements is a big part of my Government’s plans to build a new Fiji. Our goal is to give every family on state land the security and stability that many of you are receiving today, but there is much more work to be done. Not only in expanding this program, but in putting forward policies that keep our economy growing and keep our people prosperous.
These efforts are deserving of a national flag that stands for everything Fiji is now and everything we will become. We are currently searching for that new flag and have extended the deadline for submissions for flag designs until 29 February. Then in March, five flags designs will be put forward and every Fijian will have the chance to make their voice heard on their choice.
On Constitution Day, the seventh of September, we will choose a new flag. It will lead us into the future, making a bold statement to the world on we are as Fijians, and what our country can accomplish.
I urge you all to join in this important national conversation and effort, we want to hear your opinions and see your ideas. So please, do what you can to help us find the flag we deserve.
Today, you can be proud that you are in control of your land and your lives. You have the tools and you have the ability to develop this settlement into something that will stand for generations. Do not squander this enormous opportunity.
Thank you, Vinaka vakalevu.