Distinguished Guests;
Ladies and Gentlemen.

Ni sa Bula vinaka and good morning to you all.

I always enjoy visiting the towns and villages of Fiji to inaugurate projects that will make people’s lives better. But I am really pleased to be here at the Blue Dolphin Rugby Club to see the installation of the new gym sets.

That is because I was here last year, and you told me then that you needed these gym sets so that the young people in this village and the surrounding area who play rugby would not have to travel all the way to Sigatoka to get the training, conditioning and preparation they need to excel.

So with an expenditure of a little more than $12,000, you have basic fitness and training equipment that will allow these young people to train right in their own village. This project was funded with assistance from the government of Taiwan under the Taiwan Grant for grass roots projects, and it is worth every penny.

It is the philosophy of my government that opportunity must not be limited to people in the cities, or people who are wealthy. It is the job of government to make sure that there is a level playing field across all of Fiji. And speaking of equal opportunity, alter today I will inaugurate a gym set in Nawamagi for the Noi Toga Rugby Club, and then tomorrow I will do the same in Nadroumai Village for the Nadroumai Village Rugby Club. So I am being true to my word: I said I believe in a level field, and their sets are exactly like yours. Now you are sure to compete on equal terms, and I expect to see the quality of play go up and the number of injuries go down.

Ladies and gentlemen, Government can’t create great scholars, or great entrepreneurs, or great rugby players. But it can create the conditions to allow the young people who have drive, and ambition, and native intelligence, and good moral character to succeed at whatever they choose.

It is the job of government to do all it can to compensate for the conditions that can hold good young people back—conditions like poverty, distance and geographic isolation.

Ladies and Gentlemen, we do not know where our next international rugby star will come from. He—or she—could come from Suva or Lautoka. But she could also come from Korolevuiwai, or from another small village in the mountains, or from any of our island communities. If that star is out there, waiting to develop, should we not make sure that we provide the conditioning and guidance that will bring him along? I am proud to say that we have a very well developed rugby program in Fiji. More than 65,000 Fijians are registered with different leagues and associations in Fiji, from Kaji to the elite. We like to pay attention to our elite players, but most of us play rugby for the sheer joy of the sport—for the camaraderie or the competition, or just to stay fit and healthy.

And it is a fact that sport has an important social value for the formation of a healthy adult. Participating in sport teaches perseverance, personal responsibility, teamwork, fair play, strategic and tactical thinking, and problem solving. Sports have given direction and a sense of purpose to many young people who were adrift and at risk of failure or crime or simple aimlessness. Sport showed them how to overcome hardship, how to contribute to a group, and how to set goals and achieve them.

Success, ladies and gentlemen, can be learned. And when young people learn to succeed, they can make it a habit. That is what we need for the future of Fiji, and that is why projects such as this one—all over Fiji—are as important as the ports and the highways we are building.

So, enjoy this equipment. Use it to help you become stronger, faster, quicker. Because whether you become an international rugby star or not, you will be contributing to Fiji’s future.
There was a time when we looked passively to the future. The future was tomorrow; it was something that would come. But we think differently now. Now we see the future as something we will make. We will determine what kind of nation we will be, what kind of people we will be. The equality of opportunity that I spoke about earlier—the philosophy that has driven my government to make education free and to spread development across all of Fiji—will be the defining element of that future.

Ladies and gentlemen, this year we will all have the opportunity to choose a new national flag—a flag that represents the kind of people we are and the kind of nation we aspire to be. Our current flag has served us well, and I do not wish to erase the memory of our past. But I do want to place our vision firmly on the future, and on a national symbol that represents us.

We have established a transparent process, and I ask you all to participate. We are accepting design submissions until February 29th, and then we will select five designs to put before the people. There will be a national consultation during which time you will be able to tell us which design you like best.

I believe that we will love whichever design we choose, because it will stand for our country. It will be our banner. We will have created it.

I believe we will love which ever design we choose because we love our Fiji.

And now start putting this wonderful equipment to good use.
Vinaka vakalevu.