Honourable Minister for Local Government, Housing, Environment, Infrastructure and Transport;
Na Turaga Ni Yavusa Matanikorovatu;
Representatives of the private sector and our various sporting bodies,
My Fellow Fijians,
Bula vinaka and very good afternoon to you all.
I’m very pleased – as always – to be back in Fiji after my visit to Canada.
And especially to be with you all today in Nasinu – our nation’s biggest population corridor; home to some 120,000 Fijians; and undoubtedly one of our most vibrant communities.
First of all, let me convey my warm appreciation for the traditional ceremony of welcome conducted in my honour this afternoon. These ceremonies will always be at the centre of our national life no matter where Fijians gather in the world. Last week, I was privileged to receive a traditional welcome from the Fijian community in Canada. And here is yet another demonstration that our customs and way of life have never been stronger or more relevant.
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 here in Valelevu this afternoon – in the heart of Nasinu – to formally open your new multi-purpose court. But before I talk about the importance of this facility and of sport generally in the life of our nation, I want to say a few words about my visit to Canada and why it was so important.
There are well over 25,000 Fijians in Canada and many more if you count the family members who have been born in Canada. Many of these people left Fiji for good in the wake of the terrible events of 1987 and 2000. But I want to attract as many as possible back to their homeland. Just as I want to persuade any former Fijian to re-engage with our nation as we work together to continue to build the new Fiji.
As with the tens of thousands of Fijians living in Australia, New Zealand or the United States, these people have carved out new lives for themselves. But for many of them, their hearts remain in Fiji. And we want to encourage these people to return and set up businesses here. To use their expertise to help grow our economy and create jobs and wealth.
The Fijian nation isn’t just a place in one corner of the Pacific but a people – stretching from here right across the world to wherever Fijians live. When I was in Canada, I felt at home because I was with my fellow Fijians. And I know that I will feel exactly the same when I travel to Sydney in October to celebrate Fiji Day with the large number of Fijians in Australia. So I want to bring the Fijian nation closer together by encouraging Fijians living overseas to become part of our nation-building effort. To tap their skills, their energy and their enterprise – as well as our own skills and enterprise at home – to fulfill our promise as a nation.
My Fellow Fijians,
Everyone knows that 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 wonderful 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.
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 – you now have a modern facility worthy of your community and the games you play. And Nasinu has a facility it can be proud of.
Within its 78 square kilometres, this corridor is larger than both our main cities – Suva and Lautoka. But in terms of sporting facilities, there’s no doubt that the people of Nasinu have long been disadvantaged and deserved a lot better. Many of you have had to travel to Suva and Nausori to train or play to the required standard. But I’m pleased to say those days are over. And I have no doubt that some of the great sportsmen and women of the future will emerge from Nasinu to make our nation proud.
What a wonderful contribution Nasinu has already made to Fijian sport. Waisale Serevi, Ilivasi Tabua and Jerry Tuwai in rugby. Vula Dakuitoga and Etuate Waqa in rugby league. Tagi Vonolagi, Abdul Manan and Samuela Kautoga in football. Mr and Mrs Albert Miller and Banuve Tabakaucoro in athletics. Matila Waqanidrola in netball. William Tabuya in volleyball.
All these great names in Fijian sport either used to live here or still live here. Plus of course our first ever Olympic Gold medalist, now the Honourable Iliesa Delana who I am proud to have as my Assistant Minister for Youth and Sport.
Imagine the potential that exists to develop more great names in this area. Nasinu is home to seven secondary schools and thirteen primary schools with a combined roll of 15,000 students. In addition, 3,000 students pass through the Fiji National University every year. So the $650,000 it has cost to provide this facility is 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,
Whether it is the world class ANZ National Stadium or something more modest like this, the FijiFirst Government is committed to providing Fijians with the best sporting facilities we can afford. And as our economy expands on the back on my Government’s achievements, we intend to provide the Fijian people with a great deal more. And especially in those parts of the country where the need is greatest or where Fijians do not have access to such facilities.
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 Nasinu Multi Purpose Court open.
Vinaka vakalevu. Thank you.