SPEECH: PM AT THE RE-OPENING OF THE VICTORIA COURTS

Good morning Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a pleasure to be here today as Chief Guest at this re-opening Ceremony. Today we are reviving one of Fiji’s most historic and treasured athletic facilities, the Victoria Tennis and Squash Courts.

These courts were built 36 years ago—not so long ago in the great scheme of things, but they have packed a lot of living in that time. This facility received its last makeover in 2003 for the South Pacific Games, when it was the site of some very spirited competition and some fine displays of athleticism. Fiji won 177 medals in those games.

So it brings me great joy to see that 12 years later we are able to present you all with a completely renovated and up-to-date facility as part of my Government’s initiative to create modern infrastructure throughout the country that serves the needs of the people.

All around Fiji, we are developing and improving infrastructure to improve the quality of life of every Fijian, including this new high-standard facility you have in front of you today. We can do this because our economy is strong and growing, which allows us to re-invest in our people. So this robust economy that we have doesn’t just create jobs and business opportunities. It generates the revenue we need to build a better Fiji.

The investment in front of you today is worth $238,000, and the Fiji Sports Council has used these funds to make this sports facility a place where everyone will be proud to play.

We’ve installed new artificial turf surfaces on all five tennis courts, and given a facelift to these very popular squash courts.

Now I can’t say personally that I am an avid tennis or squash player, as I’ve always been a rugger at heart. But I can say that I appreciate the importance of athletic activity in our daily lives, for what it does for us physically and what it teaches us about life. As Fijians, sports are a large part of our identity and a major source of our national pride. But sports and athletic activity play an even more important role in keeping us moving and keeping us healthy.

One of my Government’s major priorities has been creating a healthier Fiji. That means encouraging healthier lifestyles – as there are many steps we can take to improve our heath before stepping into the doctor’s office, and many things we can do to make sure we visit the doctor’s office less frequently. And athletic facilities, such as the one being re-opened today, provide opportunity to get of the house, get moving and make ourselves an even healthier people.

This push by my Government isn’t only limited to Suva. I am delighted to report that the Fiji Sports Council Sigatoka Facility in Lawaqa Park has received nearly $2.1 million in re-development works. This sizable investment is an immense achievement for Fiji’s sporting industry and will bring enormous opportunities for sport and fitness to the region.

At the National Fitness Centre in Laucala Bay, Christmas has come early with the arrival of 30 new cardio machines this week. This was funded from a $100,000 commitment by Government to take proactive steps in building a Healthier Fiji by giving people the equipment they need to live more energetic lifestyles.

In the West, we’re contributing over $2.8 million through next year’s Budget for the redevelopment of Churchill Park which will include an all-weather track. Also in Lautoka, we’ll be commencing works on the construction of a botanical garden swimming pool that will be open to the public for recreational activities. And in Ba, Government has contributed $203,500 for the construction of the Ba Multipurpose Sports Complex which will now include an upgraded horse race track.

As we approach the end of this year, rest assured that all of our efforts to build a healthier society will continue into 2016, because the job will not be done until every Fijian has access to the same opportunities to engage in a healthy lifestyle.

While I’m here today, I also want to take some time to discuss another issue that relates directly to the health of our nation — the prevention of domestic violence and sexual assault. We must have a national conversation about this very serious problem, and I will insist that we have that conversation as a people.

I will be now be taking every available opportunity that I have to condemn domestic violence and sexual assault because, as I’ve said before, this is an issue that I care about very deeply. It affects our character as a people. We need to take a close look at ourselves and ask if we can respect ourselves as a people and a culture if we allow this scourge to continue. In Fiji, we must protect our most vulnerable groups. We cannot allow the women, children, elderly and infirm of this country to be abused or exploited.

Our laws severely punish those who have been found guilty of such offenses, but the unfortunate reality is that many cases of domestic violence and sexual assault do not make it to the courts. This is a crime that thrives on intimidation and secrecy, and the law alone is not always far-reaching enough to eradicate it.

So I am speaking out because domestic violence must be shamed. That is how we will eradicate it. When a man who abuses his family is ashamed to show his face in his village, in his workplace or on the streets of the city. Because by tolerating such actions, we condone them – and there is never an excuse to permit domestic violence or sexual assault.

Ladies and Gentlemen,
There are certainly more ways we can better our society and communities and more improvements on the horizon, but today let us celebrate the new and improved Victoria Tennis and Squash Courts. I look forward to seeing the benefits that these new courts will bring and I encourage all of you to use this new infrastructure to lead even healthier lives.

Thank you all for your attention, without further ado, I declare the Victoria Tennis and Squash Courts re-opened.

Vinaka vakalevu.