Bula vinaka and a very good morning to you all.
I’m delighted to be with you all here today at the Magodro District School for a double celebration that is an important moment in the life of your school and your community. Not only are we holding the annual Passing Out Parade but I am also officially opening your new School Library.
So it is a great day and a wonderful pleasure for me to take part in these celebrations and to meet as many of you as possible. I want to thank you all for the welcome you have given me and especially the traditional ceremonies that fill every Fijian with pride and are such an important part of our country.
First off I want to say to those children on parade today: You look absolutely magnificent standing there so tall and proud and I want to commend you on your turnout. As primary students, you really are showing many high school students how these parades should be done. So congratulations on your marching and drill, which is a great credit to you, your parents, your school, your community and our nation.
We have these parades to teach you discipline and the qualities of bearing and attention to detail that will help you immensely when you grow older. We want you to live disciplined lives, be loyal to your leaders and become better citizens of our beloved nation. Because one day, you too will assume leadership positions in various walks of life and this is helping to set you off on the right path.
Some of you will eventually become cadets in our high school corps and others may go on to have military careers. But all of you are benefitting from experiencing this training at an early age. And the lessons you are learning here will stand you in good stead for the rest of your lives no matter what you do in the future.
You are never too young to learn the discipline and teamwork that comes from the training you are receiving. So I would like to thank everyone involved in making this parade a success – students, parents, and of course those members of the RFMF who have helped you.
It is a matter of immense pride for all of us to be Fijian – citizens of one of the best countries in the world. And we must never forget how fortunate we all are to belong and the duty we have to keep us united and strong. And to look after each other – to love one another – and especially those who need our help most.
Boys and girls: for the last 45 years, children like you have stood before our flag and sang our national anthem with pride. But, of course, this year we are changing our flag to replace some of the old symbols that stretch back to the time the British ran Fiji with symbols that are genuinely Fijian. We want to reflect who we are today, not how we were 45 years ago at Independence.
The national competition for the new flag ends today. And I’m happy to report that we have had a wonderful response from ordinary Fijians to our call for a new flag that all of you will stand before and salute for the rest of your lives.
As of yesterday, we had received more than 580 individual entries in our national competition to design a new flag. I am sure we will get more by the end of today.
They have come from all walks of life, from young people like yourselves to the very old. From ordinary Fijians right across the country, from overseas, and from all sections of the community – farmers, labourers, tradespeople, shop workers, professionals. We’ve had children submitting their designs on pieces of paper. And professionals sending their designs in slick presentations via email.
It has been a wonderful response and I want to thank the Fijian people for embracing our noble initiative so eagerly. They have shown their desire to embrace a new flag that we can all be proud of as Fijians and speaks to all of us today, not our colonial past.
After the competition closes later this afternoon, we will start sifting through the entries and examining the various concepts in detail. I’m told there are some very imaginative entries and it may well be that the final design reflects the work of a few people rather than just one or two. But I can assure you as Prime Minister that we will come up with a design we can all be proud of, no matter who we are or where we come from. Because this is about strengthening our identity as Fijians and reinforcing the notion of One Nation, One Fiji.
My fellow Fijians,
I’m also delighted to be here to officially open your new Library, which is a wonderful addition to the school and which I urge you all to use as much as possible. Books are the windows of the world of knowledge that will open up to you if you develop a love of reading.
There’s an old saying – information is knowledge and knowledge is power. Only by reading can you gain the knowledge you need to achieve anything in life. The power of the written word can help you all your life. So read as much as you can and use this wonderful new facility to learn as much as you can about the world outside Magodro and outside Fiji.
You boys and girls have been given the best opportunity any Fijian has ever had to get an education and eventually get well-paid, interesting jobs. We have given you free schooling and relieved the fee burden on your parents that kept so many of them from being able to go to or completing school themselves. But it is up to each and every one of you to make the most of that opportunity by working as hard as you can at your schoolwork. And to read as much as you can in your new library and also when you’re at home.
I want to thank everyone involved in preparing for this day – a wonderful day for the young people of Magodro and the whole community. And I know our boys and girls would especially want me to thank their
parents and guardians for the support they give them. And their teachers for opening up a world of knowledge and leading them in the right direction on life’s path.
I say it all over the country and I’ll say it again in Magodro: it is a wonderful time to be a Fijian. We have a healthy economy growing at around four per cent a year. This is giving us the means to deliver a whole lot of things like free education, better roads, better health facilities and all those other improvements that are moving Fiji forward.
Great days lie ahead and I ask we all work together for the benefit of our children, the future of our nation and for even better days ahead.
Vinaka vakalevu to you all for this wonderful Parade. And I now have great pleasure to open your new Library.
Vinaka vakalevu, thank you.