The Honourable Minister for local Government, Housing, Environment, Infrastructure and Transport.
My Fellow Fijians
Bula vinaka and a very good morning to you all.
This is a great day for our coastal and maritime communities in Fiji as we commission the Cagivou – the third and most impressive of the new vessels we have acquired for the Government Shipping Service.
This continuing upgrade of our ability to service the most isolated parts of Fiji is one of the most important things my Government has ever done. Because before we acquired these vessels, there hadn’t been a new ship on these routes for three decades.
So I’m delighted to be here yet again to commission a vessel that like the previous two that have already entered service – Sigavou and Vunilagi – are transforming the lives of Fijians in our maritime communities. Bringing them all a little closer to us on the bigger islands and our capital. Giving them a safer, more comfortable and more reliable means of transport. Taking in plant and equipment to develop their infrastructure. And taking out the things they rely on for their incomes – their fish and agricultural produce – and getting them to market in the best possible condition to earn the best possible price.
As many of you know, Cagivou means “New Wind”. And that is what is blowing across the maritime communities of Fiji and indeed the whole country. A wind of change. Sweeping away the arrested development of the past few decades. Modernizing Fiji’s infrastructure. Empowering our people. And unleashing a new era of progress under the FijiFirst Government that promises even greater things to come.
Look at this wonderful ship – brand new and the first to be completely purpose-built for Fijian conditions – and let your imaginations wander. Why didn’t we invest in any ships at all for 30 years? Why did successive governments allow the old ones to gradually run down to the point where the Government Shipping Service couldn’t be relied on? How could we have neglected the people of our maritime communities so badly? Hardworking ordinary Fijians cut off by distance and isolation. And already disadvantaged enough because of the lack of services that mainlanders take for granted.
My Fellow Fijians, it has taken the FijiFirst Government to finally begin closing the gap. To begin bringing the same level of services to Fijians wherever they live. And as I have said repeatedly: I will not rest until every Fijian – no matter where they live – enjoys the same basic level of services as someone living on Viti Levu. Because it’s not enough for only us here in Viti Levu to enjoy equal opportunities. We need to take the benefits of our new era of economic growth to every part of the country. Indeed this is what our constitution requires of us as a government – to ensure economic participation for all. And that is what we will do on this vessel and on the rest of the government fleet. A new wind of opportunity blowing through our nation for the benefit of everyone.
This is why the current attempts to divide us are so misguided. Because it is only by working together as one nation, one Fiji, that we can improve the standard of living of the Fijian people. To those Fijians tempted to listen to the voices of division, I want to say this: There is no threat to the i’Taukei. There is no threat to Christianity. Our Constitution – our supreme law – guarantees the protection of this for all time. And you can read it for yourself because we have translated that Constitution into i’Taukei, as well as Fiji-Hindi.
The people who are telling you otherwise are liars. They are trying to fool you into supporting them. To back their crazy ideas to break away from Fiji and establish so-called Christian states or overthrow the current government altogether. You need to listen to me very carefully. They will not succeed. And if you are foolish enough to join them, you will be severely punished and could spend many years in jail.
The current government was chosen by the Fijian people as a whole at the election almost a year ago. It is the only lawful government. And to challenge it is to defy the will of the Fijian people. It is an attack on democracy and it will not be tolerated.
The people behind these insurrections don’t believe in democracy – in listening to the will of the people. They want to impose their will on everyone else. They are enemies of the State and enemies of the Fijian people. They are enemies of investment. They are enemies of a modern Fiji. They are enemies of prosperity for all Fijians. And we are going to track them down and bring them to justice.
This also applies to Fijians who are plotting against the State overseas, including certain high profile figures in Australia. If you encourage sedition, you are committing a serious offence. If you urge violence against anyone in Fiji, you are committing a serious offence. The hand of the law is very long. And rest assured that the authorities in Fiji will not rest until you are brought to justice.
To those Fijians in the areas where these people are operating, let me say this: Do not be fooled into supporting breakaway states. It is not only illegal but even if they were permitted, they would have no hope of surviving economically. You would be poor as well as foolish. So turn your backs on these messengers of division. Report any illegal activity to the police. And if anyone you know is involved, tell them they risk spending many years in jail, with all that would mean for your families and your community.
My Fellow Fijians, I am amazed that SODELPA has not joined me in strongly condemning these elements threatening the integrity of our nation and the health of our economy. It can only mean one thing: that SODELPA also doesn’t respect the will of the Fijian people, freely and democratically expressed at the last election. They are failing to defend democracy. They are giving comfort to those who want your democratic choice last September overturned. It is a betrayal of democracy. It is a betrayal of the Fijian people. And it confirms that SODELPA is not only totally unfit to govern but is unfit to even sit in a democratically elected parliament. Shame SODELPA, shame.
My Fellow Fijians, Thank God that the overwhelming majority of our people are supporting the principle of unity, not division. Thank God that the rest of the nation has its eyes on building a better future for everyone.
Unlike SODELPA and these troublemakers, I have a fundamental belief in the intelligence and common sense of the Fijian people, including our youth, our young Fijians. They have no interest whatsoever in more of the instability that held our beloved nation back for nearly three decades. Because they know it kept everyone poor except the elite. It deprived everyone of the services they deserve while certain people got rich raiding the National Bank of Fiji. And it kept our nation weak and perpetually unable to move forward.
The Fijian people can also see how much we have turned ourselves around. How much progress we have started to make by embracing unity and the principle of one nation. How political stability leads to economic progress. The longest running period of economic growth in our history. Free schooling for our children. Better infrastructure and services for everyone. Fiji moving forward as one people. Educated and outward looking. Living in the true hub of the Pacific. Determined to take the Fijian-Made brand to the ends of the earth. And being respected the world over for being Fijian. Proud of our culture, the preservation of our environment and our contribution to keeping the world safe. Making Fiji finally, truly, the way the world should be.
My Fellow Fijians, this is my Government’s vision. That is our destiny. And with your support, we will get there. So let us all cast our eyes forward rather than backwards to the great opportunities that await us if we can stay united and focused.
This vessel is a potent symbol of the cagivou – the new wind that is carrying Fiji forward – and of my Government’s program of modernization that is transforming the lives of every Fijian. As I keep saying: we are growing the national cake so that everyone can get a bigger slice. And I’m extremely pleased and proud that with this ship, we are able to give a bigger slice of the cake to people living in coastal and maritime areas. A brand new vessel to assist in their economic development and expand their own horizons.
Before I launch it, just a few statistics: Cagivou has been purpose built at a cost of 5.76 million Fijian dollars by the Kian Juan Dockyard in Miri, Sarawak, Malaysia. She’s a stern roll-on roll-off design capable of carrying 100 passengers. And surveyors from the Maritime Safety Authority of Fiji were among the team that supervised its construction, along with a technician from the GSS and a local naval architect consultant, Moape Batigai.
To Mr Batigai, the MSAF surveyors, Malakai Cakau and Seremaia Turgabaleti, and the GSS technician, Ryan Peters, thank you for your work in bringing this project fruition.
I especially want to thank the delivery crew – led by Captain Pauliasi Vakaloloma – who sailed the Cagivou back to Fiji in winds that were sometimes rather stronger than he would have liked. Captain Vakaloloma has undertaken three previous delivery voyages for government and this was one of the roughest. In fact, Cagivou had to shelter in the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu for a couple a days before resuming its voyage. So I guess, Captain, you and your crew were even more relieved than usual to finally make it home.
The good news is that the Cagivou came through this rough weather with flying colors. So the people who it will serve throughout Fiji can be confident that is as safe as any comparable ship can be. And we are all certain that it will provide us with very many years of reliable service.
Can I also briefly draw your attention to the improvements in our other infrastructure, including the dredging of the waterways here at GSS, where we have completed the first phase; the $1.35-million that has been earmarked to rehabilitate the jetty; and $4.2m for the construction – already underway – of a new office building, workshops for engineers and technical staff, plus a cargo warehouse and waiting area for passengers.
The GSS fleet now stands at six. And next year, we will complete our fleet replacement program with a new vessel to replace the decommissioned navigation aids ship, Raiyawa,
This ship will have a multipurpose function – a platform for aids to navigation also doubling up as a hospital ship. These are two critical roles – maintaining safe sea lanes in line with our international obligations and providing our maritime communities with much needed medical services. On this vessel, we’ll able to conduct surgical operations that have only been available in hospitals on the main islands. So this will be a wonderful benefit to Fijians living in these communities.
I want to close by urging everyone at the GSS to redouble their efforts to serve our people and to set a standard of excellence for the whole shipping industry. With these ships, we are finally giving you the tools to need to do your jobs better. So I ask you all to rededicate yourselves to the task with a stronger sense of commitment.
To the crew of Cagivou, every Fijian joins me in wishing you not only new winds but fair winds and calm seas. And it now gives me the greatest pleasure to officially commission the Cagivou.
Vinaka vaka levu. Thank you.