SPEECH: PRIME MINISTER VOREQE BAINIMARAMA AT THE GROUND BREAKING CEREMONY OF SOMOSOMO HYDRO DAM

Bula vinaka and a very good morning to you all.

I’m delighted to be back in the North this morning in the beautiful garden island of Taveuni for a very important occasion – the ceremony to begin work on the Somosomo Hydroelectric Power Plant.
We’re turning the ground here today on a facility that will eventually generate 700 kilowatts of electricity to power homes and businesses from Wairiki to Welagi. Somosomo will literally be the hydroelectric powerhouse for a large part of Taveuni. And I can assure you that it is only a matter of time before the same benefits flow to other communities on the island.

In the 2007 census, 85 per cent of Fijians had some form of access to electricity. Seven years on, my Government has extended that to up to 95 per cent of the population. But we’re determined to reach the rest – to achieve 100 per cent coverage – as soon as possible.

We’re also committed to delivering power that is affordable and sustainable. So we are in the process of replacing the existing diesel generators in many places – that rely on expensive imported fuel – with power generated from renewal sources, like the water that will power the generator here.

Today is a milestone for a number of reasons, firstly the promise this project holds to improve the lives of many people in Taveuni by giving them sustainable, environmentally friendly power and protect the island itself. We all need power but there’s a special responsibility on every Fijian to keep this beautiful island – and indeed the rest of our country – clean, green and pristine, not just for ourselves but for future generations.

It’s also another milestone in our relationship with the People’s Republic of China, which is making this project possible with a contribution of $15-million. China has always been a friend of Fiji’s but in recent years has shown itself to be a great friend – one willing to stand by our side in challenging times, be supportive, and respect our sovereign right to choose our own path. Once again, Your Excellency, I would like you to convey to your Government and the Chinese people our warmest thanks. For this project and your support generally.

And finally, it’s a milestone for the people of the North – yet another sign of my Government’s commitment to their welfare and a cornerstone of our Look North Policy. We have a vision to transform the North, to extend to the people of Taveuni and Vanua Levu the same level of services Fijians enjoy on Viti Levu.

I have a fundamental belief that every Fijian – no matter where they live – not only deserves the same access to such things as electricity, water, education, health and telecommunications, it is their right. Of course none of this can happen overnight. The neglect of past governments to properly develop our nation in the four decades since independence is a terrible stain on our body politic.

We spent years arguing over who deserves a bigger slice of the national cake instead of working together as one nation to grow that cake and provide everyone with a bigger slice. Instead of promoting unity, these politicians promoted division. Instead of thinking of providing opportunities to every Fijian, they were obsessed with merely conferring benefits on themselves and their own kind. And unfortunately, it is still happening.

I am very disappointed to see certain people in the lead-up to our general election – the first genuinely democratically poll in our history – still being obsessed with rights for some and not for all. These people are still trying to press the same old buttons, to instill fear in ordinary people about imagined threats that simply don’t exist.

We all know what they are – the supposed threat to I’Taukei land, the supposed threat to Christianity, the supposed threat to the educational opportunities of the I’Taukei. None of them are legitimate. None of them are true. But against all the evidence, these people keep spreading lies and rumours as if they were fact.

I want to make an appeal today to ordinary Fijians to carefully look at the truth of what people are saying – to examine the evidence, the facts – before they accept what some unscrupulous people are telling them to try to get their vote. Don’t just ask yourself if what they are saying is true. Go and find out for yourself. Read our Constitution – which has been translated for the first time into I’Taukei and Fiji Hindi. What does it say about the protection of i’Taukei land? What does it say about a secular state? What does it say about access to education?

And when you do you will soon realise that there is deliberate attempt taking place to frighten you when there is no need to be frightened. The supreme law of our nation protects you, just as it protects every Fijian.

To the people of the North I say: examine for yourself the claims by some would-be politicians that nothing has been done for you and my Government’s look North Policy is all talk. Here we are today in Somosomo launching a $15-million dollar project to provide you with affordable electricity. Is that nothing? Is that all talk?
We’re spending $228-million dollars to build an all weather highway from Nabouwalu – the western gateway to Vanua Levu – to Dreketi and all the way to Labasa. It is opening up the North, cutting travelling times, making it easier to move people and goods and opening up economic opportunities previous generations could only dream of. Is that nothing? Is that all talk?

Thousands of ordinary Fijians in the North have benefited from government training programs, thousands have been given help to start their own ventures and businesses, thousands have been given the opportunity to build new homes or have their cyclone damaged homes repaired. Is that nothing? Is that all talk?

The sugar industry in the North is being expanded, land is being reclaimed for growing cane and we intend to crush one million tonnes of sugarcane a year in Labasa by 2020.

Here in Taveuni, 20,000 coconut growers stand to benefit from our program to revitalize the copra industry, to replace senile trees with younger ones that have higher yields. And for the first time, Fiji is selling Virgin Coconut Oil in Korea at $13 a bottle – a new export industry that promises to transform the lives of many people in the North. Is that nothing? Is that all talk?
No!
It is genuine achievement – real progress to benefit every Fijian in the North and in the case of our export industries, the economic welfare of every person in the country. And it has happened under my Government, which doesn’t make false promises but delivers.

Don’t judge me on my words when it comes to making your choice on 17 September. Judge me on my actions. And the record shows that I have delivered better services in the North, better services for every Fijian and will continue to do so if you put your trust in me to continue the reforms that have made these achievements possible.

My Government’s record is one of service to the Fijian people – something I fundamentally believe comes before all else. I am here to serve.
I want every Fijian to ask themselves. Who do these other politicians serve? Our needs or theirs? Ask yourself? Why do they lie when the evidence is there that what they say is not true?

I have my own answer to that. It’s because they didn’t deliver before and they won’t deliver now. They are yesterday’s men and women desperately trying to seem relevant in a Fiji that has moved on.

Some of them who were at each other’s throats and brought Fiji to its knees now pretend to you that they can work together. Who are they trying to kid? They need to be asked a simple question: If you couldn’t work together before, how can we possibly trust you as a nation to work together now? Because the truth is that if they had worked together before, everything that has occurred since in the way of progress – the free education, the economic growth, the jobs, the prosperity – could have happened years ago.

They squandered our future with their bickering. They forced thousands of our best and brightest people to leave. And now they have the gall to pretend that none of it happened, that they can bury their hatchets, smile at each other, look lovingly at one another and run the country together.

Believe me, it is not going to happen, nor will their new found friendship last. These people are treating the electorate like fools and I believe that when they face the judgment of the Fijian people, they will be rejected.

I happen to believe in the essential common sense and decency of the Fijian people, whoever they are and wherever they come from.
They know that talk is cheap but real achievement requires unity and hard work. They know that the divisions of the past have held us back and prevented us from fulfilling our destiny as the pre-eminent Pacific nation. They know that only by moving forward together and everyone putting Fiji first can our nation ever achieve greatness and better lives for our children and the generations to come.

Your Excellency, ladies and Gentlemen, this wonderful project in Somosomo embodies my Government’s vision for the future of the North and of every Fijian. That future rests on being smart, on harnessing the latest technology to provide our energy needs and rejecting anything that threatens the sustainable development of our beautiful island home.

This is a huge step towards creating cleaner, greener and more sustainable energy for the people of Taveuni. And with those words, I have great pleasure in breaking ground to commence work on the Somosomo Hydro-electric power project.

Vinaka vakalevu. Thank you