Distinguished Guests;
Ladies and Gentlemen.

Bula vinaka and a good morning to you all.

I’m delighted to be here with you all at Komave Village in Nadroga to kick off the first day of my Tour of the Western Division. Just two weeks ago I was in the North, opening new infrastructure, providing new equipment and extending the reach of our Government services. The geography of the North presents unique challenges, so it took special efforts from my Government to bring Fijians there the projects and programs that they deserved.

Here in the West, you also face challenges that we must together overcome. The mountains and rivers here on Viti Levu are surely beautiful, but they can also be obstacles to infrastructure and make services difficult to deliver. That’s why I’m here in the West, because you also deserve special efforts from my Government. Special efforts to bring real improvements to your lives, so that your quality of life is not defined by where you choose to call home or where generations of your family have lived.

Fiji is currently enjoying a lot of economic success. For six straight years, our economy has been growing and improving – and we are projected to stay on that track. That is a significant achievement, and it did not happen because of the efforts of a few, but by the efforts of many. Every Fijian, regardless of where they call home, can claim responsibility for our strong, growing economy.
Here in the village, your hard work adds to the hard work of thousands of other Fijians to create growth for our larger economy. So when that economy does well, it is the duty of my Government to make sure that prosperity is shared by everyone, including those of you here in Komave. You are all equal contributors to the success of our new Fiji, so I will not rest until you see the benefits of the economic gains you helped make possible.

Today, I am here to officially commission the dam, water tank and PVC pipes that have provided you with a safe and abundant source of water. The project was completed at a total cost of $101,167 and has already made a big difference in the lives of 289 people here in Komave Village. Today also marks the official opening of the Komave, Nadroga Ecological Purification Project, completed at a total cost of $46,066.

I’ve wanted to visit both of these projects for a while, along with all of you here in Komave, to see the difference it has made in your lives and hear your own stories and vision for your village.
When my Government looks to how our development policies and programmes will change the destiny of this nation, we see quite clearly that we need to build on the right foundations, including education, security, and basic human needs – and access to water is the most basic need. Access to safe and clean water in adequate number is your right under our constitution.

Water brings life — other improvements mean very little if access to water is not guaranteed every hour of the day. We use water every day to keep ourselves productive and healthy. It keeps us hydrated, it keeps us clean, and it is our most precious natural resource. Without clean water, we cannot live. So people who don’t have water must spend precious hours every day just finding water, collecting it, bringing it home and making sure it is safe to drink.

So that is why these projects are so important. They have given your community access to water every day of every week and made sure that water is clean and safe to drink. It has given you better health. And it has given you the gift of time—time you can use to earn a living or love your children or help keep your village safe and clean. You no longer have to go out into the rivers and creeks; you can now access that water right here in the village. And that water is free of any illnesses, so you can rest assured that you and your children are staying healthy.

Never before has access to water been safer or more convenient than it is for you today. But while these projects are a blessing, it is only the beginning of what Komave Village is capable of becoming. When we all keep working hard and when my Government continues with policies that drive economic growth, we will build Komave Village, and all of Fiji, into an even more prosperous and equitable society.

Ladies and gentlemen,

My Government is committed a new Fiji not only that enjoys unprecedented economic success, but also represents for who we are as a people. That is why we are currently in the process of changing our national flag. Our current flag has served us proudly, but the Fijian people deserve a flag that symbolizes where we come from, and where we are headed.

The deadline for flag design submissions has been extended until the 29th of February. In March, we will announce the five final designs, then consult with the public before flying our new national flag on Constitution Day, the 7th of September.

This is a national effort and conversation that will define what represents Fiji. So I hope all of you will make your voices heard, through your design submissions and your opinions on the final designs. This will be a flag for every Fijian, so it would be a shame if every Fijian did not have their say. So get involved, and I hope you’ll follow this process closely as we choose a new flag that captures what is to be Fijian.

I am confident that all of you here will keep up the great work you’ve done, and continue to use these new water projects to enhance your daily lives. You deserve everything my Government can afford to give, and we will do our part to support your village and your people in the days to come.

Thank you. Vinaka vakalevu