Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a pleasure to be here with you today as part of my Tour of North here in Naividamu at the opening and commissioning ceremony of the Naividamu Ecological Purification System (EPS) project.
My Fellow Fijians, this past week has proven to be a trying one, given the effects of the tropical cyclone and tropical depression. Please rest assured that my Government will provide full assistance to all Fijians in the affected areas. I especially thank you all for your preparedness. I also wish to thank the relevant agencies such as DISMAC, the MET office and law enforcement agencies for their untiring efforts in ensuring the safety of all Fijians.
My visit to the North will take me to many new infrastructure projects designed to make sure your daily lives and the opportunities before you are as vibrant and rich as anywhere else in Fiji. All Fijians have the right to live healthy and productive lives, and it is my Government’s sacred commitment to make that happen for all Fijians, no matter where in our islands you call home.
God has given us Fijians a challenge. He put us on more than 100 islands in the Pacific Ocean and then gave us the opportunity to form a nation. But He didn’t give us any burden that He thought we could not overcome. While there are great physical distances that separate us, we can never use geography as an excuse for inaction, for lack of services or for lower expectations and economic prospects. That is unacceptable in any country that calls itself a democracy. The fact is that geography is just another challenge for us to overcome, and we Fijians are good at overcoming challenges.
My Government is also committed to making sure our success is spread as far and wide as possible so that everyone can enjoy the benefits of our growing economy. We are committed to you, as we are every Fijian, and we will not rest until the blessings of our growing economy are shared in every corner of Fiji. More importantly, we will not rest until every corner of Fiji knows that it is an equal contributor to the growth and greatness of our nation.
That is because our success as a country is not owed to the few, but to the many. Every village around Fiji does its part in contributing to our economy and building our wealth, so it is only fair that every village also reaps the benefits of what the new Fiji has been able to accomplish.
So that is why I am here today opening this new project that will cleanse and purify your water. This project is state-of-the-art and cost effective. It is a marvel of modern science, using algae and microbial activity to purify water rather than relying on more expensive chemicals and technologies. It is a model of environmental responsibility and sustainability, and it fits perfectly with our Green future.
This project was completed by Government at a total cost of $33,959 and will benefit 42 households in the village. Now 210 Fijians residing in Naividamu will have safe drinking water that is no longer at risk of contamination from water-borne diseases.
Universal access to water is a basic human right and an essential building block of development. Every day of our lives water keeps us hydrated, clean and healthy. When our water quality is poor, the quality of our lives suffers in return. But when we have safe drinking water that is available around the clock, we can go to school and go to work uninterrupted by disease or the time-consuming process of finding clean water.
Without this fundamental resource, my vision of a more advanced Fijian society is not possible. So please, take advantage of what this project will offer you. My Government will be with you every step of the way in our struggle to eradicate poverty and realise our full potential as a nation.
This is only the beginning. We are working hard to ensure our current economic success will continue so that we can usher in even more new development to your region. Clean water is only the first step to developing your community and local economy. More can and more will be done to improve the quality of your lives and keep you all as healthy as you can be.
I would like to talk to you about another subject, one that is very important to me as Prime Minister, as a Fijian, and as a man. As you know, I have been speaking out about domestic violence and violence against women and children, and I don’t want to miss an opportunity to talk about it when I am gathered with my fellow Fijians. My Government has changed laws to make sure that rapists and people who batter their wives and children are punished severely. But laws are not enough. We must come together as a society, as a people, to eradicate this terrible problem. We need to create a culture within our society that condemns and shames this behaviour.
I would like to remind us all that we must never abuse, hurt or intimidate our women and children. We must be kind and gentle. We must listen and nurture. We must be a guide to our children and a source of comfort. We are finally realising our potential in Fiji. Our economy is booming and our prospects have never been greater. But economic progress and development must be accompanied by social progress, by greater civility and an abandonment of violence. I have said that rape and domestic violence are the ugly underbelly of our culture, and so they are. Only we can stop them. So I would like all of us to commit ourselves to ending the scourge of rape and domestic violence in Fiji. Stand up against it, and bring down shame on anyone who abuses or even thinks of abusing our women and children. That is the only way it will stop.
And with those few words, it is my pleasure to officially commission the Naividamu EPS Project.
Thank you and Vinaka Vakalevu.