Bula vinaka and a very good morning to you all.
I’m delighted to be in Tailevu for this important event in the life of your community and which I know you have waited a long time for – the construction of this seawall to assist you to cope with the flooding that has been a major issue here.
You have had a problem with drainage for a very long time and made repeated requests to former Governments to come to your assistance. As in so many instances around Fiji where ordinary people needed help, your pleas for assistance went unanswered.
Also, as in so many other instances, it is the FijiFirst Government I lead that has finally provided the helping hand you have so badly needed. So I’m very pleased to be here to deliver what you should have got a long time ago and to share in the community’s celebration that this wall is finally built.
I want to thank you for your wonderful welcome and the traditional ceremonies that every Fijian takes pride in and is such an important element of our culture and tradition. Everywhere I go in Fiji, these ceremonies and the strength and character of the iTaukei people give the lie to the claims by our political opponents that the iTaukei way of life is under threat.
The truth is that the iTaukei have never been stronger nor more proud. Their ownership of 91 per cent of Fiji’s total land surface is guaranteed and protected in our Constitution, which we translated into iTaukei and you can read for yourselves.
This Constitution also guarantees and protects iTaukei culture and tradition. And it provides ordinary Fijians with a range of rights that they have never enjoyed before. The right to participate in our economy, the right to education, to housing and sanitation, adequate food and water, social security, health and reasonable access to transportation. And it also guarantees your right to continue to live in a clean environment, with the protection of all our natural resources, including the marine life on which so many Fijians depend.
Our iTaukei young people also have a better chance today to get a proper education and to live prosperous and fulfilling lives than any Fijian of previous generation. My Government’s provision of free schooling, scholarships and tertiary loans for university or technical colleges is a huge leap forward for the iTaukei and every Fijian.
All over Fiji, I am telling our young people: seize the opportunities that have been given to you. Work hard to achieve your own dreams. Because your dreams are part of the wider vision we all have to make Fiji an even greater nation, standing even taller and prouder and respected throughout the world.
You will have also heard me say that our mission in Government is to deliver and to serve. And this seawall is part of that programme of delivery for the people of Matainoco. It has been built at a cost of $166,000 dollars and clearly, it is going to make a huge difference to your lives. And I couldn’t be more pleased as your Prime Minister that we have been able to serve you and finally deliver something other governments couldn’t.
So decide for yourselves who is truly meeting your needs. This Government, that is working as hard as it can to improve your lives and the lives of every Fijian. Or those who tell you that you are disadvantaged but when they were in government, were more concerned with their perks and privileges than serving the needs of ordinary people.
Don’t take my word for it. Examine the evidence for yourself. Read our Constitution and the guarantee it provides for the safety of iTaukei land. Look at the new roads we are building, the access we are giving ordinary people to electricity or clean water. Look at the free medicine programme that we have implemented for people with combined incomes of under $20,000 dollars. And the school fees we now pay that have ended the misery of so many disadvantaged families whose dreams for their children remained unfulfilled because they couldn’t afford to send their children to school.
Look at our free milk and Weet-Bix programme that is giving our Year One students the best possible start to the school day and the best possible start in life. And then decide for yourself.
I believe in the decency and common sense of the iTaukei people. I don’t treat them like idiots by telling them lies and scaring them about things they have nothing to worry about . I trust them to make up their minds for themselves.
Look at the difference we have made here today – and end to the misery of the flooding that has made your lives so difficult. These walls and drains will allow water to flow out of the village and keep high tides out of it. Away from your homes and your precious farming areas.
The work that has been done here will avoid the accumulation of stagnant water and the boggy mud that has plagued your lives for so long. And equally importantly, this drainage will also improve sanitation and end the risk to everyone’s health posed by these conditions. We are not only protecting your surroundings. We are reclaiming low-lying areas of the Matainoco Village to enable you to build more houses and to use the reclaimed land for recreation and any other purpose you may require now and in the future.
You are no longer hostage to the elements and the flooding you have always experienced, especially during heavy rain. And you are now protected from the effects of the high tides which I’m afraid are only going to get worse as time goes by.
We are trying desperately to get the world to understand that the pollution from the factories in other countries is warming up the world, melting the icecaps and raising the level of the sea. We want those countries who are polluting the atmosphere to dramatically reduce the emissions of carbon dioxide that are causing this global crisis. But we have been having a great deal of trouble getting them to listen and to act.
I would like the politicians in those countries to come to a place like Matainoco to see the effect their factories are having on the lives of the people here. And in the more than 600 other villages in Fiji being effected by rising sea levels brought about by climate change.
Three countries, Kiribati, Tuvalu and the Marshall Islands could disappear entirely under the waves in around 50 years if nothing is done. So we beg the global community to finally hear our cries for help and to act. To stop being selfish about their own prosperity and start thinking more about our survival.
My fellow Fijians, fortunately for all of you, this is not an immediate crisis in Matainoco and this seawall will help protect you from some of the more serious consequences now and into the foreseeable future.
So I have great pleasure in formally opening the new seawall and the drainage works that will mean so much to you. Thank you again for your wonderful welcome and I look forward to meeting as many of you as possible.
Vinaka vakalevu, thank you.