The Honourable Attorney General and Minister for Public
Your Excellency the Ambassador of Japan,
My Fellow Fijians.
Bula Vinaka, and a very good morning to you all.
I am happy to announce that Fiji is set to modernise our radio broadcasting capabilities and increase access to information in even the remotest islands of Fiji. We are doing so by upgrading our existing medium wave AM infrastructure and transmissions – which we all know is not a commercially viable business – but which has much greater access than our FM broadcasts and is the only way in which we can provide our remote communities with a signal strong enough to carry radio programming. Through this upgrade, the Fiji Broadcasting Corporation will be able to provide clearer and more dependable programming to Fijians in maritime areas and improve the overall quality of radio coverage for all Fijians. Indeed, I am told that on a good day this signal could be picked up even in New Zealand.
This project has been made possible by the assistance of the Japanese Government in the form of a $14.5 million grant. Fiji is eager to access the top-of-the-line equipment and technology provided to us by the Japanese Government. Not only are we getting technology capable of reaching the furthest reaches of the country but it will provide the entire nation with a reliable service for many years to come.
Fiji and Japan share a strong commitment to democracy and public participation. Both countries understand that access to information is a fundamental requirement of a functioning democracy. And I would like to thank the Japanese Government for the faith that it has placed in the FijiFirst Government to use this grant to improve the lives of all Fijians.
It is my fundamental belief that information belongs to the people. The right to information ensures that Government remains accountable and that the public cannot be fooled by those who are misinformed. By increasing access to information for all Fijians, we increase transparency — and greater transparency brings greater trust between Government and the people.
Access to information is the life blood of a nation. It saves lives when we can boost our disaster and emergency readiness by broadcasting national warnings of natural disasters. It helps close the gap between those living in remote parts of Fiji and the big islands, and promotes greater economic opportunities by putting them on equal footing. It improves the quality of our education by bringing everyone the latest technical and scientific information. And it is an important tool in enabling Fiji to reach its true potential. It improves the quality of our democracy by providing equal access to information, as well as the right to equal opportunity and substantive justice contained in our Constitution.
We have a public broadcaster in Fiji not only to complement our private broadcasters but to provide everyone with a broader sweep of programming. The FBC exists to serve the Fijian people. It is a vital tool in nation building. And it is crucial that its reach extends to every corner of the nation. With this upgrade, we are finally getting the sufficient technical means to do so. We are going to get even closer together as a nation. We now have the means for everyone with a radio to enjoy the voices and sounds that make up our national culture and also form our collective memories. So the importance of this investment cannot be overstated.
I also want to take this opportunity to thank the Board and Management of FBC for the many initiatives they have undertaken to strengthen our cultural identity as a nation.
A raft of programming has been introduced that is relevant to modern Fiji and especially our young people. And the Government especially appreciates those home-grown programs like Bati Ni Tanoa, Fijian Smiles, talk back shows and community programmes that are not only highly entertaining but are bringing us even closer together as a nation. We need programming that is not only innovative but promotes national unity and that is what the FBC is doing.
My fellow Fijians, you’ll have heard me say often that I will not rest until every Fijian – no matter where they live – enjoys the same level of access to basic services as those living on the bigger islands. Location should never determine your rights as a Fijian or your value to society. This not only means better access to such things as education, better health care, electricity, clean water or telecommunications. It also means better access to information. No matter where you are, my Government wants you to stay up to date with the most relevant news and all the latest developments in Fiji and overseas. And we are committed to delivering this service to you wherever you live.
I want to close by again thanking the Government of Japan for working hand in hand with us on this mission to provide Fijians with equal access to information. And to those in the national broadcaster – the CEO, the technicians and managers – who have the task of implementing this upgrade. The voice of the FBC will soon be a lot louder and clearer, thanks to the generosity of the Japanese people. And it also strengthens our sense of nationhood in bringing Fijians even closer together. One nation, one Fiji.
Vinaka Vakalevu – Thank you.