SPEECH: HON. PRIME MINISTER JOSAIA VOREQE BAINIMARAMA’S SPEECH AT THE BOOK LAUNCH OF THE CHINESE IN FIJI 1855-2015

Bula Vinaka, good morning, ni hao

Distinguished guests,

I am delighted to join you all as chief guest at the launch of the publication — The Chinese in Fiji 1855-2015. This book tells the stories of the personalities who have formed one of Fiji’s most vibrant and successful cultural communities, our Chinese Fijians. This account documents – for the first time – the individual struggles of Chinese Fijians who left their ancestral homes in China and made new lives for themselves here in Fiji. Together, these stories are an important contribution to telling Fijian history and especially that of the ChineseFijian community.

As Fijians, our cultural diversity is an important source of our strength. And our ChineseFijian community has made an important contribution to the strength of our diversity ever since the first Chinese immigrants arrived in Fiji 160 years ago.

1855 marks the official arrival of the first Chinese in Fiji — but there is speculation among historians that Chinese may have been here considerably earlier. I’ve recently been told that two Chinese men were living in Bau as early as 1808. And according to another historical account, there was a Chinese community in Macuata in the late 1820s. But the official history of the Chinese in Fiji needs a starting date. And the first confirmed arrival of a Chinese settler is a Mr. Moy Ba Ling, who settled in Fiji in 1855.

What do we know about Moy Ba Ling? Well he settled first in Australia where he adopted the name of Houng Lee. Then in 1855 he sailed to Fiji, where he built a number of businesses and established the Houng Lee family, with a reputation that continues to this day.

Since his arrival, Fiji’s Chinese community has enriched Fiji’s culture and helped develop our economy. The relatively small size of our Fijian Chinese community belies the large impact they have had on our development. Through their resourcefulness and diligence, our Chinese community in Fiji has produced a succession of leaders in business, medicine, education, and a wide range of other sectors. They have played a substantial role in enhancing Fiji’s international standing and contributing to our national life. And I am honoured, on behalf of every Fijian, to extend my congratulations to your community on the 160th anniversary of your arrival in Fiji.

Over those 160 years, ChineseFijians have become an integral part of our nation. They have brought with them the best of Chinese culture, and every Fijian is certainly fond of Chinese food. Chop Suey and Chow Mein are so much a part of our diet that we tend to regard them as Fijian dishes.

Chinese festivals such as the Chinese New Year and Moon Festival are also celebrated. These too are arguably Fijian festivals as well. Chinese medicine has also been widely embraced, whether it is herbal medicine or acupuncture.

So ladies and gentlemen, the wider Fijian community thanks you for the huge contribution you have made to our national life and joins me in wishing you a happy 160th Anniversary.

It is a celebration of 160 years of solid achievement. And the history of the ChineseFijian contribution is told through the remarkable individual stories in this book, which I urge every Fijian to read. I always say that we need a lot more books to be written in Fiji about the events that have shaped our nation and this is an extremely valuable addition to our appreciation of the history of Fiji as a whole.

Ladies and Gentlemen, being Fijian is not about your ethnicity or religion. It is not about your place of birth or social status. It is not about your chosen trade or profession. To be Fijian is to value opportunity and justice for all. To be Fijian is to work hard, be patriotic and help build Fiji’s future. To be Fijian is to contribute to the betterment of our society.

I congratulate you all again on this, the 160th Anniversary of the Chinese in Fiji. And again, urge everyone who can get a hold of a copy of this book to do so. The wonderful story of your community is to be found in these pages and these stories deserve as wide an audience as possible. And while they are the stories of the past, they also tell a story of a promising future.