Bula vinaka and a very good morning to you all.
This is a great day for the nation, the Northern Division and especially the people of Cakaudrove – the completion of the Buca Bay Road, one of the biggest infrastructure projects ever undertaken in the North.
Last September, I had the great pleasure to open the first 10 kilometres of the new sealed road from Nagigi to Naqere. And now, I’m equally delighted to be back to formally launch the remaining 20 kilometre section from Naqere to Kasavu.
It is a wonderful moment in the lives of the many thousands of people who will benefit from this dramatically upgraded link with the outside world. And to begin, l want to read out the list of places that will now enjoy faster travel times, safer and less dusty journeys and some of those things we take for granted in our cities and towns – concrete footpaths and bus shelters.
The villages of Matukunea, Droniluku, Naweni, Tacilevu, Valevagi and Vianibay. The settlements of Vunibau, Nalulu, Loboivu, Natuvu, Waisere, Vunilagi and Kasavu. The school children who attend our primary schools at Naweni, Tacilevu, Vunilagi and Kasavu. The Naweni health Centre. And the Number One tourist resort at Natuvu.
My Fellow Fijians,
For all of you, today is a day of great celebration. The dreams of your grandparents for a better link to the outside world have finally been fulfilled. You are now closer to the rest of Vanua Levu and closer to the world. You finally have the world-class road you deserve. And I am extremely proud that the Fiji First Government that has been able to deliver this huge improvement to your daily lives.
Parents are less anxious because your children can get to school faster and more safely. We are saving lives because the sick can get more rapid assistance at a health centre or the hospital in Savusavu. Everyone can get their produce or fish to market faster and in a fresher state so that you can earn as much as possible for it. More tourists are bound to make the journey here because they no longer have to contend with the dust and the potholes. And all this means that this wonderful part of Vanua Levu has been made more accessible.
We have given you the means to open yourselves up to the world. To attract new investment. To expand your economic base. To provide more jobs and more sources of income to raise the living standards of everyone along the Buca Bay Road. To keep more of your children from having to leave the area or leave Vanua Levu altogether. To keep families together. To make them happier and more prosperous.
This is the vision of my Government for every Fijian, no matter who they are or where they live in Fiji. And we rejoice together today that with this road in this beautiful part of Fiji, we have also opened a pathway to improving the opportunities and the way of life of so many of our people.
My Fellow Fijians,
There is nothing like the opening of a new road to also talk about the road ahead for the people of Vanua Levu and Fijians everywhere. So I want to say a few words today about the path we are taking together as a nation. To explain my vision as Prime Minister – the job you gave me at the election nearly eleven months ago and which I regard as the greatest privilege of my life.
When I opened the first section of the road to Naqere last year, I said this project underlines my Government’s commitment to the welfare of the people of the North and is a cornerstone of our Look North Policy. We have a vision to transform the North, to extend to the people of Vanua Levu the same level of services Fijians enjoy on Viti Levu. Because I have a fundamental belief that every Fijian – no matter where they live – not only deserves the same access to such things as sealed roads, electricity, water, education, health and telecommunications – It is their right.
Of course, none of this can happen overnight. But the FijiFirst Government is steadily reversing the neglect of past governments. And their failure to properly develop our nation in the four decades since Independence. Wherever you look, we are getting things done.
Our political opponents, of course, continue to spread the lie that we are actually doing little or nothing at all. They are blind to everything around them because they need to cover up a basic fact. That when they had the chance to govern, they did little or nothing except for themselves and their supporters. The rest of the nation was left to fend for itself.
Unlike them, I believe development is for everyone. The FijiFirst Government doesn’t discriminate. We don’t pander to vested interests or the elite. We look for areas of need wherever they may be in Fiji and make them the priority. We put our tax dollars where they are needed most. Development based not on who you know or who you voted for but on genuine need.
My Fellow Fijians,
One of the biggest lies that SODELPA continues to spread is that we are eroding the rights of the i’Taukei when the reverse is true. We have strengthened those rights and ensured that they are protected for all time. And I urge every i’Taukei to examine the truth for yourself by reading our Constitution that we had translated into i’Taukei.
Not a single inch of i’Taukei land has been lost under my Government prior to the election, under the Constitution or under the FijiFirst Government. In fact, it is because of this Constitution and my Government that the i’Taukei today are more empowered than ever before. And their land is more secure than ever before.
Always remember that many of these liars were among those who brought the country to its knees in 2000. They have nothing else to offer but more of the same. More fear. More suspicion. More hatred. A nation stuck in the past and turning in on itself rather than a nation that is united and outward looking – searching for better opportunities for everyone.
I have a fundamentally different view of the Fijian people than they do. They think ordinary Fijians are stupid and can be manipulated into supporting them with their pathetic scare campaigns. Whereas I preside over a Government – the FijiFirst Government – that respects the intelligence of the Fijian people and values their common sense.
My fellow citizens,
Fijians know who is really standing up for their interests because they are smart enough to see things for themselves. To read our Constitution and see the protections of i’Taukei land, customs and the I’Taukei way of life that our Supreme Law guarantees. And the social and economic rights for everyone that are there for the first time. Basic rights that no Fijian has ever enjoyed before.
They see their children going to school for free – also for the first time. Plus the opportunities they are being given to get a higher education and fulfil their dreams and the dreams of their families. They see the free medicine and free water we are providing for low-income earners. They see more Fijians getting access to electricity and other basic services, more people with access to mobile phones and the Internet. And they see us building new roads like this one. Plus the new road between Nabouwalu and Dreketi which is going to transform the north-west of Vanua Levu in the same way this is transforming the south-east.
Fijians are not stupid. They know that no past government saw fit to provide a sealed road here to unlock the economic potential of this area. To increase the value of i’Taukei land because it opens up more uses for it. To develop i’Taukei land for the benefit of the i’Taukei people and enable other Fijians to lease it. This will ensure that our economy continues to grow and there will be prosperity for all.
Fijians also know that mine is a Government that listens. A Government that cares. A Governments that has the interests of every Fijian at heart. A Government with a vision to take our beloved nation to the next level and create a modern nation state. A Government that delivers. A Government that serves.
We are also a Government that is managing the national economy in a way that has never been done so successfully for so long. We are currently enjoying the most sustained period of growth in our entire history since Independence. Five successive years of economic expansion and three of those with growth rates of four per cent or more.
So Fijians know their nation is finally on the move. And they also know that if we can stay united and focussed, nothing is impossible. We can replace poverty and despair with happiness and prosperity. We can give many more Fijians the kind of leg-up their parents and grandparents could only dream of. We can build the new Fiji and take our rightful place in the world. The hub of the Pacific. A beacon of hope for our neighbours. Fijian workers educated and sought after. Our troops helping to keep the world peaceful and safe. Our voices heard and respected in the great forums of the world. Our Fijian-made products a byword for quality and consistency in every corner of the earth. A nation comfortable with itself and confident on the global stage. Fiji. At last the way the world should genuinely be.
My Fellow Fijians,
That is our destiny but we lost our way. But now – united, one nation and on the back on our growing economy – we intend to fulfil that destiny. For Fijians of future generations to look back at this time in our history and say: “That was the turning point. That is when we finally got our act together as a nation. When we really started to make Fiji great ”.
My Fellow Fijians,
I have just returned from China and can tell you that our voice is certainly respected as never before by the leaders of this great nation. Just as our voice is heard around the world with other great nations. For the first time in the history of any Pacific nation, Fiji now has the ear of the senior Chinese leadership – both the President and Prime Minister – and we are able to put our case to them direct.
I want to thank the Exim Bank of China for providing Fiji with the loans we needed to complete this project – more than $73-million for this final stage on top of the more than $40-million for stage one. And I want to thank the contractor – the China Railway First Group – for the work it has done on the upgrade. Along with everyone who has also contributed to the success of this project, including the Fiji Roads Authority.
This road is the pathway to a great future for the people along its route and the people of the North. And I now have great pleasure in officially opening the second and final stage of the Buca Bay Road.
Vinaka vakalevu, thank you.