Cola Vina and a very good morning to you all.

I’m delighted to be here in Cuvu to join you all in celebrating the opening of your new health centre. I’m having a very healthy week here in Nadroga. Yesterday morning, I opened the refurbished health centre in Vatukarasa, which was a wonderful occasion, and yesterday afternoon I opened the new extensions at the Sigatoka Hospital.

This was an even more wonderful occasion because I know that our mothers up and down the coast of Nadroga can now deliver their babies in a much better environment than they were used to in the past. No doubt many of you women and young girls in Cuvu will eventually give birth to your own babies in the new facility in Sigatoka and I can assure you that it will be a wonderful benefit for you at what will be one of the most important times of your lives.

About 100 babies a month are born at Sigatoka and about a 100 mothers a month use the antenatal facility there to prepare for their big days. So the new maternity section is a huge improvement to the usual standard of care of the women of Nadroga, including every mother-to-be here in Cuvu. You are the backbone of our nation. We honour you and are determined as a Government to give you the best facilities we can afford.

I’m also delighted that instead of having to travel to Sigatoka for medical attention, the people of Cuvu generally – men, women and children – now have this new health centre close to your homes. Obviously, for more serious illnesses and injuries you will still have to go to the emergency facilities in Sigatoka, Nadi or Lautoka, but less serious cases can now be dealt with right here. This is a great benefit not only to the people of Cuvu, but to other nearby areas in that it will save you travelling expenses and be far more convenient, especially for our mothers, children and the elderly.

The great thing about this new facility is that the idea for it came from the grassroots – from community to divisional level, and then to the top of Government. My Government listens to the people. We deliver, we serve. And when you told us that you needed this facility we responded, at a total cost of $1.3 million.

I want to thank everybody involved in getting the project off the ground – the Office of the Commissioner Western, the Department of Works, the Ministry of Health, the Lands Department and the many others who contributed to this project. I especially want to thank the land-owning unit for their willingness to provide the land on which to house this complex. It is very well situated, not only close to nearby communities and hotels, but also for commuters travelling the Queen’s Road who might need medical attention.

I want to repeat the message I gave to the people of Vatukarasa yesterday. I’m deeply concerned about the general health of some sections of our population here in Fiji. We have far too many instances of our loved ones having their health destroyed and losing their lives far too early through some of the non-communicable diseases such as high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease.

We all need to be more aware that these diseases can be prevented if each and every one of us changes the way we live. I urge you all to give up smoking, to drink yaqona or alcohol in moderation, to eat less and more healthy food like fresh vegetables and fish, and to exercise more. Don’t take the bus or a taxi when you can walk. Don’t eat lollies, have a piece of fruit. These are all things that our mothers and fathers told us when we were little, but far too many of us still take no notice. And unfortunately we are passing our bad habits to our own children. The role of Government is to provide you with health facilities like this one for when you get ill and need medical attention, but I urge all Fijians to take charge of their own health – take responsibility for yourself so that you only have to visit a facility like this when you really need it.

I also want to apologise to you all here in Cuvu for the delay in the implementation of our free milk program for Year 1 students, which was to have started on Tuesday. It has taken longer than we anticipated to roll out this program, but I can assure you that it will happen as soon as possible.

I also want to urge all Fijians with a combined household income of less than $30,000 a year to take advantage of the free water we are offering to households based on an international standard of how much water a person needs every day, which is 50 litres. Each household connected to the Water Authority of Fiji – based on an average of 5 people a house – will get up to a maximum of 250 litres free a day. This program begins February the 1st, but you will need to register with WAF before then and there will be advertisements in the media telling you how to do so. This is an important way in which we can assist low-income families and I want as many people as possible to benefit from this initiative.

I made the point yesterday and I will make it again today, that unlike our political opponents we are delivering new benefits to Fijian families, while all the opposition seem to do is play cheap politics by criticising us at every turn. I don’t mind criticism, but the problem is that they keep going on about things that aren’t important. When you hear them criticise the Government again, ask yourself, “is this something that affects me? Is this something that is going to benefit my family, put food on my table, or give my children a better future?” Because that’s the difference between them and me. I care only about improving the lives of decent, hardworking Fijians, and giving their children the best possible start in life through such things as our free education program, free textbooks and subsidised bus fares. To give them opportunities we older Fijians could never imagine, to give them the opportunity to reach for the stars.

To do that, young bodies and young minds need to stay healthy. This Health Centre and the others we are opening all over Fiji are all part of that grand plan. And so my fellow Fijians, I have great pleasure in declaring the Cuvu Health Centre open.

Vina valevu. Thank you.