Posts tagged Bainimarama government

PM Bainimarama – Speech at Opening of the 2013 Certified Practicing Accountants (CPA) Congress

Bula Vinaka and a good morning.

We gather here today at an important juncture of our history – the unveiling yesterday of the new Constitution that will take us to the election next year.

It’s the job of accountants, of course, to take stock of the financial positions of individuals and companies. So I can think of nowhere better than to take stock of the position of our nation at this point and outline where I think we go from here.

It’s a great pleasure to be here in Nadi among you for this conference, which has become an important venue, over the years, to share ideas and improve the quality of the national debate.

By now, most of you will be aware of the major points of the Constitution, that will pave the way for the first genuine democracy in Fiji next year of equal votes of equal value.

I’m very proud of this document. It embodies everything that I envisaged when I set out six and a half years ago to put Fiji on a different path, to put an end to the lost years, the wasted years.

We shared a vision that instead of being mired in communal politics and division, instead of corruption and self interest, instead of unsound economic policies, we would fulfill the dreams of our people at independence that Fiji be an economic powerhouse at the crossroads of the Pacific – a thriving, united beacon for our neighbours and the rest of the world – Fiji, the way the World should be.

Yes, that was the dream in 1970 but along the way, we lost our way. Well now, we’re back on course.

It has been a difficult process and I wish we could have been spared some of the pain. I wish more people – especially some of our neighbours – could have had a better understanding of what we were trying to achieve.

But I’m convinced that for all the challenges, history will eventually judge us favourably. Because our revolution – and that’s what it is – has finally laid the foundations for a fairer, more equal society and the development of a modern, progressive state.

By any measure, I believe the 2013 Constitution meets the standards of any of the world’s great democracies, which incidentally, we intend to become.

Instead of a discriminatory electoral system, we finally have equal votes of equal value – a true level playing field for every Fijian.

Instead of the rights of the elite being entrenched, the rights of every Fijian are entrenched.

Instead of entrenching division, we are a building and strengthening the ability of all of our people – whoever they are – to finally work together as One Nation. One People putting Fiji first.

The Constitution also provides for strong and independent institutions, not a system in which only personalities matter.

I’m especially proud of a provision in this Constitution that may not be at the top of the list for some but may prove, in the long term, to be the most important of all…

And that is the requirement that every primary school child in Fiji be given instruction in how to speak i’Taukei and
Fiji Hindi.

Imagine a new Fiji in which every citizen has a working knowledge of the two main vernaculars, moving freely in and out of each other’s languages, trading stories and jokes.

My Government was determined to break the barrier of schools that were ethnically based and named . Now we go one step further in our vision to create One Fiji by breaking down the barrier of communication.

So this Constitution is more than just a document to get us to the election next year. It is the manifesto of a genuine revolution that we had to have. And I firmly believe that future generations will look back and say “ 2013 was the turning point, when the principle of equality embraced by all the world’s great democracies, was finally embraced in Fiji”.

Like most revolutions, not everyone will agree. But it is a noble cause and we should not apologise for it.

We had to end the long but in the end, rapid decline of our nation, the entrenched corruption, the weakening of our independent institutions, the neglect of our infrastructure, the absence of sound financial and economic management, the entrenching of communal divisions and the overall loss of faith in Fiji that saw a large proportion of our people leave for greener pastures.

We had to destroy the notion that some people were more equal than others. We had to destroy the notion that those born to privilege had special status over the rest simply by right of birth. We had to restore hope for every Fijian – irrespective of their socio-economic background – that better days lie ahead. And that everyone has a place in our national life.

We were determined to create a level playing field for every Fijian and we have. We are determined to create the first genuine democracy in our history and we will. And the document that we released yesterday will take us there.

I’m pleased to report, even after 24 hours, that the response to the final version of the Constitution has been positive. In fact, people have said to me that any country would be proud of it. Because it embodies all of the major principles embraced by any advanced democracy – equality, liberty, an independent judiciary, a Bill of Rights. Plus accountability and transparency provisions that Fiji has never had and will guarantee the better standard of governance that we all know Fiji needs and deserves.

It hasn’t been an easy process. We’d all hoped that the Ghai Commission would give us a blueprint that was workable, achievable and affordable. Instead, we were presented with a document that entrenched privilege and provided us with layers of governance, bureaucracy and red tape that we didn’t need.

So we unashamedly set about formulating a Draft Constitution that incorporated the best of the Ghai Draft and which we then took to the people in a series of consultations around the country, inviting them to give us their views on what the final version should contain.

We received 1093 written submissions and countless verbal suggestions, as my ministers and I toured the country speaking to ordinary Fijians and hearing about their concerns.

They told us they wanted certain changes. They especially said they wanted the final version to contain specific provisions that guarantee and strengthen the protection of I’Taukei, Rotuman and Banaban land. And to also strengthen the rights of those many Fijians who lease land from others.

They asked and we listened. Those provisions are now entrenched in the final version of the Constitution. We have provided ordinary people with the security they requested. And the liars and the scaremongers who exploited their fears for their own base political purposes have been exposed.

Where do we go from here? Well, of course, to the election next year. I’m always bemused to read and hear that it will never happen. That Bainimarama will never give up power. That it’s all a cruel trick. As each month progresses, we are answering these critics not with words but with deeds. Each block is gradually being put into place to fulfill the promises that we made and we will honour. You have my guarantee of that.

We do not make any decisions for short-term political gain. We make decisions for the long term benefit of every Fijian.

Before September 30th, 2014, I will subject myself to the nation’s will under the provisions of the document we unveiled yesterday. I will form a political party and my party will submit itself to the collective will of the 540 thousand or so Fijians who have already registered for the elections.

We will fight a battle of ideas with our opponents, who were offered a briefing on the Constitution yesterday and didn’t show up. That contest will be free and fair. And we will stand on our record and on the many reforms we still plan for Fiji.

When will I launch the new party? When I’m ready. Because right now, I am concentrating not on my own political fortunes but on the fortunes of the Fijian people, just as my government has for the past six and a half years.

We aren’t just promising better basic services to ordinary people like previous governments, we are delivering them. Better access to education, health, housing, transport, electricity, water, telecommunications, government services, legal aid. Better roads, better sporting facilities. That is my priority and the priority I have set my Ministers every waking hour of every day.

I appeal to the business community to match the Government’s commitment to higher standards of propriety and accountability. For the first time, our new Constitution establishes an Accountability and Transparency Commission that will cover all public office holders.

They’ll also be subjected to a new Code of Conduct and we will be ruthless in enforcing it. We want that same transparency and accountability in the private sector. That means an end to the shady deal, the nod and a wink, the “you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours” mentality that has long been a feature of too much of Fijian commercial life.

Ladies and Gentlemen, we must stop these practices.

We also have a vision of Fiji punching above its weight in the region and the World. Our leadership of the Melanesian Spearhead Group, of the Pacific Small Island Developing States, of the G77 – the biggest voting bloc at the UN – of the world’s peak body for sugar.

Our large contribution to UN peacekeeping – keeping watch over vulnerable men, women and children for more than three decades in troubled parts of the world. Our ambition to be the economic hub of the Pacific – to lead our neighbours into a common market. All this isn’t for ego or to make us feel good. It’s because we are determined for Fiji to fulfill its promise – to fulfill its destiny.

Ladies and Gentlemen, we are no longer in decline. We matter. And together, we can make a difference in our region and the world. We are prepared to serve, not only the world through our peacekeeping efforts but our smaller and more vulnerable neighbours. We can be proud that even as we address our own problems, we are still capable of sending our retired teachers, nurses and other professionals to boost standards of education and health in those countries. Because Fijians deliver. Fijians care.

At home, our many reforms over the past few years are starting to produce results. In recent days, we’ve all been buoyed by the news of a more buoyant economy. Projected economic growth will be one of the highest we’ve experienced. And whatever the real figure proves to be, there’s no doubting that there is a new mood in the country, a new wave of optimism about our economic prospects because of the policies of my Government. The tax cuts and investment incentives have helped. But people start spending and investing when they have confidence. And confidence in Fiji – which was once in short order – has not only rebounded but reached new heights.

We do not intend to rest on our reforms. We must continue them. There is still too much corruption, too much tax evasion, too much waste. Business still labours under far too much red tape. Some of our trade unionists still haven’t grasped the reality of 21st century labour relations. We must all work together to increase productivity, reduce inefficiency and provide the investment climate in which real jobs are created and sustained. And sustainable improvements in working terms and conditions are achieved.

And so, ladies and Gentlemen, I ask everyone in this room to commit themselves anew to Government, the private sector and employees working hand in hand to improve our economic performance and the lives of all Fijians.

I commend the final version of the 2013 Constitution to you and encourage you all to familiarize yourselves with its provisions. When the accountants among you do your sums, I’m sure you’ll find that it adds up to a sound blueprint for a new Fiji, a better Fiji – And for the first time in Fijian history – a credible and genuine framework for the achievement of true democracy.

I wish you well in your deliberations.

Vinaka vakalevu. Thank you

Fijian Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama’s State Visit to Russia

PM Bainimarama – Opening of Fiji’s Corrections Services New Remand/Detention Centre

Bula vinaka and a very good morning to you all.

Thank you for being here to witness the opening of Fiji’s new state-of-the-art Remand/Detention Centre, which represents one of my Government’s major capital projects.

Fiji has been long overdue for such a facility – to house certain individuals who have been arrested or charged with a crime, but who have not been convicted.

Our old facilities simply weren’t up to scratch. It’s no secret that there is severe over-crowding at Corrections institutions in the country and that this issue has called for action.

For many of us, the Prisons system is not something that we think about often, and when we do, it’s mainly in terms of national security.

I can assure you that ensuring the safety of the Fijian people is one of my Government’s main priorities, and something we take very seriously.

But as a Government, and as a society, we also have an obligation to those who have fallen ill of the law. There are international standards and best practices that must be adhered to and upheld.

One, as I have already mentioned, is to reduce overcrowding in prisons.

Another is to make sure that remand prisoners are not mixed in with convicted criminals. The legal concept of “innocent until proven guilty” is a cornerstone of our legal system, and is something that should be reflected in our Prisons systems.

We must provide adequate remand facilities that are separate from our prisons.

The bottom line is a commitment to ensuring that all Fijians’ human dignity remains intact.

This new facility is a huge step in the right direction. This new $11.6 million Remand Centre, which took 18 months to complete, will uphold the highest international standards.

This Centre is located closer to the Courts, which means that those with ongoing trials can be transported to their hearings more easily and securely than in the past.

Truly, this is a facility that we can all be proud about, because it represents a new standard for a new Fiji.

But it’s not cause for celebrations just yet. I have been informed that for the past six months, the number of remand inmates has hovered around the four hundred and thirty mark, which is double the capacity of this new facility.

While this new detention centre is a huge step in the right direction, it alone does not fix all the challenges we face in our Prison system.

Yes, it relieves some of the burden of overcrowding and allows for the separation of remand prisoners from convicted criminals, but there is more work yet to be done.

I am encouraged that there are now regular consultations between the Judiciary, the Fijian Police Force and the Fijian Corrections Service. This has resulted in a more efficient system that ensures remand cases can proceed speedily, and are not delayed unduly or unnecessarily.

Because we must never forget that we are dealing with people, many of whom will return to their families and communities. Our aim is not only to punish, but to help these people become responsible citizens for the betterment of Fiji.

One of the most important missions of the Corrections Service is rehabilitation – designed to increase the successful re-integration of inmates back into society. This includes hands-on training and work experience.

Recently, I was very happy to hear that the Corrections Service has been encouraging some of the inmates’ artistic talents, who are now achieving commercial success.

Fiji’s Yellow Ribbon program has drastically reduced the number of Fijians who return to prison after serving their first sentence. It’s all about giving people a second chance, and I’m very proud to say this program is producing results.

I would like to thank all those who have been involved in this project, including the Ministries of Social Welfare and Health for making this site available for development

I would also like to take a brief moment to acknowledge Fiji’s Corrections Officers. It’s all too easy to forget the difficult conditions in which our Staff operate and the challenges they face. The vast majority of Prison Officers do their jobs conscientiously and well and deserve the support of both the Government and the wider community.

With those few words, it is now my pleasure to officially open this new Remand and Detention facility.

Vinaka vakalevu.

Public Service Day: Prime Minister’s Office Extends Public Service Display

The Prime Minister’s office has extended its public display until Friday (June 28) this week to showcase the role and services provided by the Ministry.

This follows the large public attendance during the Public Service Day on Tuesday (June 25) at their display marquee, which is set up at the front lawn of New Wing Government Buildings.

Information on the various Department’s actvities within the PM’s Office can be gathered from the pamphlets, brochures and publications that are available within the display booth.

The display also includes the Fiji Roads Authority (FRA), Ministry of Lands and the i-Taukei Lands Trust Board (TLTB).

In line with its “Open Door Policy”, the PM’s Office continues to receive members of the public who provide feedbacks on services rendered by Government agencies and other sectors.

Members of the public are being urged to take advantage of this opportunity to visit the booth from 8am to 4pm.

More Fijians Registered for 2014 Elections

Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama has reported that more Fijians have registered for the 2014 general elections.

He told Melanesian leaders gathered at the 19th MSG Leaders Summit yesterday that 80 per cent of the Fijian population have registered.

“More than 80 per cent of the estimated number of eligible voters, which equates to over half a million Fijians, have registered for the elections,” PM Bainimarama said.

“This is very encouraging given the challenges of reaching out to our disadvantaged communities in the rural and remote islands.”

PM Bainimarama said preparatory work for the country’s elections was well underway which will be on the basis of one person, one vote, one value instead of the racially weighted method employed until recently.

“Fiji would hold for the first time in its history a truly democratic parliamentary elections by September 2014,” he said.

“At present, the elections office is working on a system whereby Fijian voters abroad can also register for the 2014 elections and any Fijian over the age of 18 or who turns 18 before the election is also entitled to register to vote in the 2014 elections.”

Phase three of the Electronic Voter Registration for next year’s elections began in June and will be completed by the end of the month.

PM Bainimarama acknowledged the support of foreign countries that have contributed towards Fiji’s election process.

“I sincerely appreciate and acknowledge the generosity of the Government and people of Papua New Guinea for the endowment of the 50million kinas as financial assistance that will go towards the 2014 general elections process.”

Fiji PM Updates MSG Leaders on Elections Progress

Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama has updated Melanesian Spearhead Group leaders on Fiji’s progress towards parliamentary democracy during a retreat as part of the 19th MSG Leaders Summit yesterday.

He said the Fijian people have been given the opportunity for a transparent and open dialogue process for the formulation of a new constitution in readiness for the 2014 national elections.

“The new constitution will amplify the voices and earnest wishes of the Fijian people and also provide a distillation of Fiji’s reform agenda that will lay the foundations for a progressive and sustainable Fiji,” PM Bainimarama said.

He said Fiji is currently at a crucial juncture in its 42 year history as an independent nation.

“We, as a nation, are enduring the most critical phase of our journey towards sustainable democracy,” PM Bainimarama added.

PM Bainimarama highlighted that a number of international and regional organisations including the UN, the Commonwealth, ACP and the Pacific Islands Forum, have recently carried out their own assessment of Fiji’s progress towards the 2014 Elections.

“These visits have taken note of the satisfactory progress Fiji is making and have also spotlighted areas where assistance can be rendered to ensure that the roadmap towards elections is effectively realized,” PM Bainimarama said.

Regarding the registration of political parties, the head of Government said the Political Parties Decree 2013 specified a modern and transparent process for registration and conduct of political parties.

“The Decree has also for the first time in Fiji introduced accountability and transparency with respect to the funding and accounts of political parties,” PM Bainimarama said.

Government Committed to Protection of Rural Market Vendors at Suva Market

Rural women selling produce at the Suva market will soon have better access to facilities following the construction of roof covers in uncovered areas.

Prime Minister, Voreqe Bainimarama while conducting a talanoa session with the community in Lomaivuna said the construction of roof covers for the Suva market is aimed to protect market vendors from all weather conditions.

“I would like to reassure you, in particular women market vendors that the construction of roof covers at the Suva market will begin soon,” PM Bainimarama said.

“Market vendors will soon have the comfort of selling their produce under sheltered stalls, protecting them from the rain and the sun.”

Referring to the tender notices this week in the daily newspapers for the provision of shelters at the Suva market, the Prime Minister requested the women of Lomaivuna to bear with government as discussions were already underway for the upgrading of all market facilities.

“Government in its commitment to providing better access to the markets will also continue to upgrade rural roads,” PM Bainimarama said.

Suva City Council special administrator Chandu Umaria said the Suva market roof cover project is expected to cost more than $300,000.

“This project will be completed in the next 8 – 10 weeks time and the Council will also be constructing the weekend vendors accommodation area by the end of this month,” Mr Umaria said.

PM Bainimarama Speaks at the Opening of the G77 Panel of Eminent Personalities of the South

Bula vinaka and a very good morning to you all.

1.  In my capacity as Chair of the Group of 77 (G77), it gives me great pleasure and honour to welcome each of you to thisbrainstorming session of the High-level Panel of Eminent Personalities of the South. We are meeting to discuss the Development Platform for the South.

2.  Allow me to convey to you, on behalf of the Government and the people of Fiji, our deep appreciation for taking the time out of your very busy schedules to join us in this important meeting here in the beautiful natural surroundings of Natadola.

3.  This demonstrates your keen interest and commitment to the promotion of South-South cooperation. I am confident that your wealth of experience and your wisdom will be of immense benefit to our meeting and to the South as a whole.

4.  This meeting aims to pursue the Group of 77’s South Summit mandates, in order to address the relevant development challenges of the South, taking into account the evolving realities and hardships facing the developing world. Through our discussions, we will reflect on the future landscape of South-South cooperation and recommend action-oriented decisions that will contribute significantly to the Development Platform for the South.

5.  As we prepare for the celebration of the Fiftieth anniversary of the Group’s creation next year, the Group of 77 must continue to take the lead in the transforming landscape of South-South cooperation by updating the South Development Platform. Our efforts should aim to enhance the solidarity of the Group of 77 in order to improve the development efforts of southern countries. We must work together to strengthen the role of the Group of 77 and reshape the architecture of the UN development system in support of our aims.

6.  We must also bolster our efforts to make the importance of South-South cooperation clear to our people. This means that we must promote wide public awareness campaigns about its benefits for the developing world through the full use of modern information technologies. Mass media, including social media, has an important role to play and we should encourage its use as widely as possible.

7.  Let me add that the outcome of our meeting this week will be included in the upcoming G77 Ministerial meeting to be held in New York in September and will be fully integrated in the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Group of 77, as well as the preparations of the Third South Summit in 2014.

8.  I wish you success in your deliberations.

Vinaka vakalevu. Thank you.