STATEMENT: HON. PRIME MINISTER JOSAIA VOREQE BAINIMARAMA ON THE NATIONAL FLAG COMPETITION

My Fellow Fijians,

I can today announce details of the timetable that will see the introduction of our new national flag – carrying genuinely Fijian symbols – which we will hoist on Independence Day, 2015.

The national competition to design the flag – which I have already announced – will begin next Monday, March the 2nd.

The competition – which is open to all Fijians – will end on 1 May, when a national committee of citizens – drawn from various walks of life – will begin sifting through the entries to make a final selection.

I am happy to announce that the chair of the flag committee will be Fiji’s only Olympic Gold Medalist and Assistant Minister for Youth and Sports, Iliesa Delana. Other members will be named in the coming weeks.

I’m also pleased to announce that today I’ve written to the Leader of the Opposition asking for the names of two nominees from her to be included on the committee.

Once a number of selected designs are chosen by the committee, Fijians will be given an opportunity to make their comments through a special website and through text message, e-mail, social media and the post.

I also urge the mainstream media to become part of this process, to disseminate the final designs as widely as possible, and to assist us in gathering feedback on them.

The committee will carefully consider the feedback it receives from the public, and based on this feedback, will make a final selection for consideration by Cabinet. The final design will then be submitted to Parliament – the people’s elected representatives – for its consideration when it sits in July.

Again, I stress that the competition to design the flag is open to everyone. But we are especially keen to encourage our young people to give full rein to their imaginations, because this flag is ultimately for them and future generations of Fijians.

To encourage schools to take part in the competition, we have some special provisions to reward schools that submit designs. All schools that do so will be entered into a draw – on a divisional basis – to win a large-screen television set, a DVD player and three computers. There will be five winners in each of the country’s Divisions.

Given that Fiji will very soon have Digital Television – and with our focus on expanding access to computers and other technology to all Fijians – this equipment is an appropriate incentive.

This is a wonderful opportunity for schools to encourage their students to come up with designs and to participate in this historic national effort.

I want to say to every Fijian: You do not need a fancy computer program and you don’t have to be a professional designer. Sketches and drawings are just as important, so any Fijian with a pen, pencil and paper can enter this competition. All submissions will be considered equally.

Of course, I’ve already said that someone’s idea need not stand alone. That idea might form only part of the final design.

Designs can be posted, e-mailed or hand delivered to addresses that we will announce in the coming week.

The biggest reward of all will be for the person or persons whose designs are chosen for our new national flag. I’m pleased to announce that the winner – or winners – will get to hoist the new flag on Independence Day, 10 October, 2015. A plaque will also be erected with the winner’s name – or names – and be displayed in Government Buildings, the heart of our new democracy, as a permanent reminder of this important moment in our nation’s history.

My fellow Fijians, I again urge every citizen to get behind this process so that we design a flag of which we are all proud. Proud because it carries a symbol or symbols that are meaningful and that we can all relate to as Fijians. Not the symbols of our colonial past.

This is a much more comprehensive process of consultation than occurred at Independence in 1970. Only one month was allowed for the competition and there was no real public consultation, since only four Government Ministers decided which of the submitted designs was to be our existing flag.

So, my fellow Fijians, I ask you to embrace the vision of a new expression of our national identity – proud, independent and strong.

As I say all over the country, great days lie ahead for all Fijians if we can stay united and focused and seize the wonderful opportunities that have accompanied the introduction of our new democracy.

Those great days will be even greater when we have a national symbol on our flag that represents who we are and where we are, and which binds us together more closely in this wonderful nation of ours.

Vinaka vakalevu. Thank you.