It is a pleasure to be here with you today as a part of my Tour of North here in Ravuka at the opening and commissioning ceremony of the Ravuka Village Ecological Purification System (EPS) project.
Unfortunately, our New Year was welcomed with arrival of Tropical Cyclone Ula. 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 and the law enforcement agencies for their untiring efforts in ensuring the safety of all Fijians.
My tour of the Northern region will take me to villages, schools, highways and other infrastructure projects that have been brought to Vanua Levu to make sure that the distance that separates you from Viti Levu does not diminish the quality of your lives. You’ve all done your part to contribute to our growing economy, so you are equally deserving of the development Fiji will enjoy as a result.
Our geography presents many challenges that we must confront as a nation. Remaining united while spread across over 100 islands can prove difficult, but regardless, we have moved this country forward together as one people. We have taken on this immense challenge and not only survived, we have thrived, marking our sixth consecutive year of economic growth. That is something we should all be proud of, because it is an achievement we have all made possible.
Even for those in the most remote corners of our country, your work is valued, your work is appreciated and my Government will not rest until the full benefits of that work are brought to you.
My Government believes in listening to everyone’s voice. Here in Vanua Levu, you are all equally important to the success and greatness of our nation and the problems that affect your communities are the problems that affect Fiji. So we have assessed the needs of various communities in our rural and maritime areas and identified what problems exist and how we can best provide the solutions.
So we are here today to open this new project that will provide clean, purified water to meet the need of your village. This project uses the most modern techniques to purify water using algae and microbial activity rather than relying on more expensive chemicals and technologies. So not only will this become a cost-effective system for your village, it will also keep Fiji clean, green and sustainable.
This project was completed by my Government at a total cost of nearly $34,000 and will benefit 9 households in the village. These families will no longer have to worry about drinking untreated water and the risk of contamination from water-borne diseases.
Without universal access to water, the advanced, modern Fiji that I envision us becoming is not possible. As provided for in the Constitution, it is the right of every Fijian to have access to clean and safe water. Without water being readily available, we can’t live fulfilled lives, we can’t stay hydrated, we can’t stay clean and we can’t stay productive. When we have safe drinking water, we can focus on other things that improve the quality of our lives – we can focus on our work and on what we can do to better our society. This is why it is in our Constitution.
Water is the first step to moving up the ranks on the economic scale. So please take advantage of what this project offers, and join my Government in ridding Fiji of poverty and bringing the entire country up to a new standard of living.
I would also like to this time to discuss another subject that I have made a point to mention all over Fiji. As you may have heard, I have been taking every available opportunity to condemn domestic violence and sexual assault, as these crimes are all too prevalent in Fijian society.
As a man, as a father and as a Fijian I am calling on all of us to take a stand against domestic violence. The home is a cherished and sacred place, and it is no place for violence. When we grant violent behaviour a foothold in our homes, that violence spreads and enters every layer of society. It damages our women and children and holds us back from achieving greatness. As a people, I know we are better than that.
We have set strict laws in place to punish these crimes, but the law alone cannot change behaviour. The unfortunate reality is that these are crimes that thrive on fear and secrecy–and they continue because too many Fijians tolerate them. Too many people accept violence against women and children as inevitable. That is why it is our duty as a society to condemn these crimes wherever they arise, to shame and shun those who abuse or prey on women and children.
When children are forced to live in fear because of the threat of rape and domestic violence, they cannot grow into the proud, successful people they are capable of becoming. If we tolerate domestic violence, we are settling for a Fiji that does not realise its full potential, because it limits what those children will be able to achieve.
To be Fijian, is to keep our most vulnerable groups from harm, not exploit them. And to be a civil society, we need to do what we can to stop these crimes from happening, not be quiet about them.
So please, let’s accompany our economic development with greater efforts to develop a safe, nurturing society. And with those few words, it is my pleasure to officially commission the Ravuka EPS Project.
Thank you and Vinaka Vakalevu.