The Honourable Minister for Local Government, Housing and Environment, Infrastructure & Transport,
The Turaga Na Tui Tavua – (Ratu Nacanieli Kuwe Uqeuqe)
The Commissioner Western,
Representatives of the private sector and our various sporting bodies.
My Fellow Fijians,
Bula vinaka and a very good afternoon to you all.
I’m very pleased to be back in the West and especially in Tavua, which seems to be thriving more and more each time I visit the town. Let me begin by thanking the Tui Tavua and his people for the Traditional Ceremony of Welcome conducted in my honour this afternoon. These Ceremonies are always a reminder that our customs have never been stronger or more relevant than they are today. They are at the centre of our national life and will always be a source of pride for every Fijian.
It’s always a pleasure for me to launch any facility that provides the Fijian people with more opportunity for sport and recreation. So I’m delighted to be in Tavua to formally open your new multi-purpose court, a day after I opened a similar facility in Nasinu. But before I talk about the importance of this new amenity and of sport generally in the life of our nation, I want to say a few words about the general security situation in the country and some of the events of recent days.
As some of you will already know, more than 50 people have now been charged with sedition and urging political violence. These cases are before the Courts and I cannot comment on them directly. But as Prime Minister, I want to reinforce what the Police Commissioner has already said; that the situation is under control and there is no need for the public to be alarmed.
We have the means to deal with any challenge to the authority of the State and we intend to do so with every legal means available to us. There will be no so-called independent States established in Fiji. Anyone who swears an illegal oath will face the full force of the law. Anyone who encourages political violence will face the full force of the law. And this needs to be understood by every Fijian.
I have an important message for the whole nation: Do not be swayed by those who seek to divide us. Do not listen to their lies and false promises. Because if you break the law, you will be punished.
I also ask you to think for yourselves and examine the facts before you do something you might regret. It is a lie to say that the i’Taukei way of life in Fiji is threatened. It is protected in our Constitution for all time. It is a lie to say that Christianity is under threat. Religious freedom – your right to be a Christian – is protected in our Constitution for all time.
We have translated that Constitution into i’Taukei and Fiji-Hindi so read it for yourself. It is the Supreme Law of our country. And when you do so, you will realise the truth of what I am saying as opposed to the lies you are being told by people trying to manipulate you for their own purposes.
Theirs is the mindset of the past – the misguided thinking that led to the events of 1987 and 2000 and tore our nation apart. That thinking was wrong then and it is wrong now. I repeat: There is no threat to the i’Taukei or to Christianity. And anyone who says so is lying to you. So I ask every Fijian to turn their backs on these messages of division and hatred and embrace the new era of opportunity that we have forged by working together as One Nation.
Where there was despair before, there is now opportunity. Where there was division, there is now unity. Where thousands of our children were deprived of an education, there is now free schooling. Where ordinary Fijians were often deprived of basic services, there are now roads, electricity and clean water. Where the elite once benefited at the expense of the rest of the nation, Fiji is a fairer and more just society for everyone. And we are currently enjoying the longest period of economic growth in our history, promising more jobs and more opportunities for everyone. So I urge every Fijian to look to the future and the wonderful possibilities that await us if we stay united and strong.
Don’t take my word for it. Look around you today at this new facility in Tavua, whichis part of the ongoing national upgrade of our sporting facilities. And then think of the other things we have done recently to make Tavua a better place. The rehabilitation of Garvey Park; the upgrading of the local squatter settlement; the upgrading of footpaths in the town; the new multi-purpose hall and gymnasium; the new compactor garbage truck. More than $600,000 invested over the past two years alone to benefit the people of Tavua.
At every turn, the FijiFirst Government is finally giving the Fijian people the services they deserve. But we can only do so if we have stability in the country and confidence in its future. And we will not and should not tolerate the kind of instability certain people are currently trying to provoke. Put simply, any insurrection will be crushed. Because it is not in the interests of the Fijian people as a whole, who are sick and tired of a tiny minority trying to sow division and insecurity and holding our nation back.
If they talk about division. If they spread lies. Stand up to them. Tell them they are wrong. Tell them about all the positive developments in Fiji. Tell them to think about the future. Tell them to be patriotic. And if you hear about or see any illegal activity, report it to the Police. The onus is on every Fijian to keep our nation stable. To keep it safe.
My fellow Fijians,
As I said yesterday in Nasinu, sport is one of the best ways to unite our country. And there is no doubt that we have entered a golden age of sport in Fiji. To have both our Sevens Rugby Team and our Under 23 Football Team qualify for the first time ever for the Olympics in Rio De Janeiro next year is a fantastic achievement. We all look forward with great anticipation to the Rugby World Cup. And we also look forward to the Fijian Pearls Netball Team finding their form again and fulfilling the potential we all know they have to do us proud.
As I also said yesterday, the seeds of our success on the world stage are planted in venues like this – where ordinary Fijians gather to learn and perfect the skills they need to achieve excellence for themselves and our nation. So whether you play volleyball, basketball, football or netball – my own family’s favourite sport – you now have a modern facility worthy of your community and the games you play. And Tavua has a facility it can be proud of.
The $98,000 it has cost to provide this facility is certainly money well spent. It is an investment in the future of local sport. And it is an investment in the sporting future of our nation. An increasing number of young Fijians are using their sporting prowess to carve out lucrative professional careers for themselves. And we owe it to them to give them the best we can afford and to encourage others to take the same path.
My Fellow Fijians,
The FijiFirst Government is committed to providing Fijians with the best sporting facilities we can afford. And as our economy grows because of the direction we have set, we intend to provide the Fijian people with a great deal more. And especially in those parts of the country like the West where the need is greatest. Or where Fijians have less access to infrastructure.
I want to thank everyone who has been involved in getting this project off the ground. And I now have great pleasure in officially declaring the Tavua Multi-Purpose Court open.
Vinaka vakalevu. Thank you.