Bula vinaka and a good afternoon to you all.

It’s a pleasure to be here in Mataso on the second week of my tour of the Western Division. Last week, I decided to extend my stay with you here in the West, and I’m certainly glad that I did. When I travel out to the countryside, it’s not just to commission projects. I do this because I want to see with my own eyes and hear with my own ears the challenges you face. I do this to understand the hopes you have for your community and your children. And I do this to talk about how development can bring Fijians together.

Of course, I also do enjoy commissioning projects because that is one of the ways government works for people, and that’s what we were elected to do: work for the people. And one way we do that is by providing the infrastructure, projects and services that your people deserve.

I say deserve, because these projects reflect the great work you’ve done in the West contributing to the sustained growth of our economy. Fiji is doing very well, and my Government has laid the foundation to create jobs, build our businesses and attract foreign investment. But it is the Fijian people who have made that a reality. The Fijian people in places just like Mataso, who have put in the sweat and effort to build our nation and help position Fiji as a regional leader with a dynamic economy.

That has to continue. We have to keep working hard, and the new development coming to the West will make the work you do bring even greater benefits down the road.

Ladies and gentlemen, there are many ways we can help ourselves build a better Fiji, but I believe the best way is by investing in our children. The world is changing more every day, and the skills and knowledge that we have today may not be all that our children will need when it is their turn to work hard for Fiji. We need to make sure that when that day comes, their education has prepped them properly for the competitive global marketplace they will navigate.

I’m here at the Mataso District School to open new school buildings – giving the children of Mataso new, modern facilities where they can learn and grow. I’m officially opening a new boys’ dormitory, a restroom facility, and a renovated school block, dormitory, kitchen and dining area. These projects have cost $211,843 and together, these buildings and upgrades have transformed your school into a more modern, sophisticated institution.

The students here at Mataso can now build on, what I understand to be, a stellar academic reputation. But even great results can always be greater, so I hope you will continue to perform in the classroom and achieve great things — with these new facilities, you have the tools you need to do just that.

In 1952, the elders of Mataso built this school so that their children wouldn’t have to suffer the long, tedious walks to the Natilevu and Nabua districts. Over the years, the school has undergone several upgrades and improvements, and today it stands as a landmark for this community. The original students at this school are now seeing their grandchildren attend the very place where they learned to read and write and understand the world. With these improvements, many more will continue to receive quality education here at the Mataso District School.
To our students here today: these new buildings have been built because we believe in you. We believe in what you can accomplish when you have the rights tools and facilities. We are confident you have the ability to realize whatever you set out to accomplish. So respect this new building, keep working hard and be the best you can be.
I am sorry that you have had to begin the year without the new textbooks that you need, but I can assure you that your government is working overtime to make sure they are delivered to you, and you will have them by the end of the month. And I promise you that this will not happen again. We are doing everything we can to find the source of this problem, and will do whatever is necessary to fix it.

Ladies and gentlemen,
When these children do grow up, it should be in a Fiji that stands for the Fijian people. A Fiji that acknowledges the past and is focused on the future. That is why we are finding a new national flag.

The deadline for flag submissions has been extended until 29 February. In March, we will announce the final five flag designs and consult the public on their preferences. Then, on Constitution day, which is 7 September, we will raise a new flag that captures all we are as a country. A new flag that our children can look at and say, “This is Fiji. This is who we are.”

Every additional voice that brings ideas or opinions to the table, will make our new flag even better. So I encourage all of you to submit designs and participate in our public consultations. This will be a flag for everyone, so it is only right that everyone have the chance to have their say.

I hope you will use these new buildings well, and continue to build on the proud history of this institution. Your students have an opportunity in front of them, an opportunity they are capable to seize. But that takes hard work and that takes dedication. But I promise that if you work hard, we will have an even more impressive, new Fiji waiting for you to enjoy.

Thank you. Vinaka vakalevu.