Members of the Fiji Police Force, the Fiji Corrections Service and the Republic of Fiji Military Forces and their Families;
Ladies and Gentlemen.
Ni sa bula vinaka and good morning to you all.
I stand before you here today as your Prime Minister, elected by the Fijian people to lead them, to serve them, and to lead the people who serve them in Government, the civil service, and the security forces.
I am proud of the Discipline Forces for choosing to begin the calendar year with a unifying religious service, a service in which all of us remember that we are dedicated to the people. Every Fijian man, woman and child has an intrinsic value and dignity that comes directly from God. This is a basic tenet of all revealed faiths, and it is the basis of our democratic form of government.
There was a time when people believed that kings got their legitimacy from God, that they ruled by what was called “divine right.” Democracy turned that on its head. It is based on the belief that the people are sovereign, and that they form governments to secure for themselves the rights that God has given them. By serving the people with integrity and justice, all of us here—Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Baha’i—serve our God.
We are sending a message of Unity, Service and Celebration:
• Unity as forces and as individuals, working together to protect the Fijian people and our Fijian homeland;
• Service to the people. Our job is to protect and to serve, to use our enforcement and coercive powers for good, and to do so always within the letter and the spirit of the law.
• And Celebration of the fact that we are called to a noble service, that every day we have the ability to do right, to ease suffering, to protect the weak, and to make Fiji a better place.
You will hear more about this in the sermon from the Fiji Police Chaplain, who will talks about Unity in Service and our duty to the people of Fiji.
The Fijian Constitution 2013 sets out the roles and responsibilities of the three Discipline Forces; the Fiji Police Force, the Fiji Corrections Service and the Republic of Fiji Military Forces. All three play a major role in ensuring the safety, security, defence and well-being of Fiji and all Fijians. They have different functions, but they work together to weave the strongest possible web of defence against criminality, whether home-grown or from abroad.
Our three services have evolved from their beginnings in the colonial period. You have grown and advanced as Fiji has grown and advanced. You have adapted to new threats and new technology. Narcotics trafficking, cyber crimes, identity theft, human trafficking: Who in colonial times would have thought that we would have to dedicate huge resources to fighting these crimes.
Of course, it is your duty and your challenge to adapt and change. To do battle against the threats to the Fijian people with new knowledge and new technology. If we stay ahead of these things, if we keep learning and growing, we can stay ahead of the people who prefer to prey on the innocent rather than do honest work.
Our people and communities put their faith in you to do these things. But your job is not easy…you must follow the law always. You are held to a higher standard than the criminals because, of course, they are criminals, while you represent the people. But the fact is that when you come in contact with the very worst of human nature. You see the vilest acts committed by human beings against one another.
Your challenge is to deal with this resolutely, but without compromising your own humanity. Laws that protect the accused also protect the security forces: They help ensure that we don’t rush to judgment and convict the wrong person, and they help ensure that the security forces can descend into the world of the criminal and emerge with their goodness and humanity intact.
We have many different kinds of people and communities in in Fiji. The different cultures, ethnicities and religions are a source of strength and understanding as long as we are willing to understand and learn from each other. It is one thing that makes Fiji unique in the world, and you will deal every day with all of these communities, all of these different kinds of Fijians. It is a special challenge, but it is an opportunity as well. If you keep your minds and hearts open, you can bring out the best in all Fijians and in yourselves. You will be very sensitive to this diversity and will respect it, and this mindset will go a long way to help our nation grow and unify.
Our Service today represents all the major religious groups in Fiji, and so it reflects the communities you serve. Our Constitution allows us freedom to practice our faiths without fear or malice, and we in Government must honour that.
St. Paul reminded us that “Where the spirit of the Lord is, there is Liberty.” And so I urge you to always act in the spirit of the Lord, because we are not just a free people; we are a people who truly love our freedom.
The Quran commands us to be fair and uncompromising and to reject corruption of all kinds. It tells us, “Stand out firmly for justice, as witnesses to God, even as against yourselves, or your parents, or your kin, and whether it be (against) rich or poor. … Follow not the lusts (of your hearts), lest you swerve, and if you distort (justice) or decline to do justice, verily God is well- acquainted with all that you do.”
Hindu scripture equates justice with a principle called rita, which governs nature and human ethical conduct. To follow rita is to act in accordance with justice, or natural law. Karma stipulates that good actions are rewarded and bad actions punished, if not in this life then the next.
As Officers and members of these three Institutions, you are defined by the Constitution as Public Officers. And you are defined by your faith—whatever that is—as good men and women. You are here to do your duty and serve the people of Fiji. It is without question a great honour to have been chosen to serve. And it is my honour to be here with you today.
Your duty is a chance to make a difference in people’s lives giving them hope for the future.
This Combined Religious Service is also dedicated to your families, who have supported you in the work that you all do. Your families live with the fact that your duties often call you away from home, even away from Fiji. Your families also serve the nation, and I thank them.
I close by reminding you of wisdom from the Book of Acts, Chapter 20, Verse 35: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.” And certainly, you all give.
May you and your families have a blessed 2016.