Posts tagged Bainimarama

SPEECH : PRIME MINISTER VOREQE BAINIMARAMA 2014 FIJI PERFORMING RIGHTS ASSOCIATION MUSIC AWARDS

Bula vinaka and a very good evening to you all.

I’m delighted to be here for this evening of celebration as we pay tribute to the talented men and women who are truly the rhythm of our nation – who entertain us all and bring us so much joy.

Tonight we are here to announce the winners of the inaugural Fiji Performing Rights Association Music Awards. It’s been 16 years since we last had a similar event so these awards are long overdue.

And it’s a special pleasure to be holding them in our capital in such a wonderful new venue – the refurbished Grand Pacific Hotel.

At last, Suva has a world-class facility capable of staging world-class events. In fact there’s only one way to describe the new GPH – pure class. And as I look around the room, it’s great to see you all looking so classy yourselves.

It’s the kind of place – isn’t it – that makes you want to dress up, to look your best. And it has certainly lifted the tone of Suva, which every day looks better and better.

We want to be proud of our capital, just as we want to be proud of our nation. And tonight we can all be proud that Suva is really starting to shine, determined to cement its place as the genuine hub of the South Pacific.

Tonight is also a night to be proud of our music industry and the incredible talent of the men and women who entertain us and embody the Fijian performing spirit. In many parts of the world nowadays, live performances have been replaced by recorded music as venues struggle to justify the cost of employing musicians. But thankfully not in Fiji.

On any night of the week, you can venture out to see some of our best musicians – many of them already recording stars – playing live in our hotels, nightclubs and restaurants. And many have also travelled further afield taking the Fijian musical spirit to the world – whether it’s Laisa Vulakoro in Port Moresby, Sumeet Tappoo in Bollywood, Victor Rounds in Sydney or Michelle Rounds in Cairo.

Someone is also composing the original material these musicians perform, and tonight we also celebrate our composers – those people behind the scenes who write the songs and tunes we hum and sometimes can’t get out of our heads.

As you know, the Fiji Performing Rights Association is a non-profit organisation that administers the copyright entitlements of more than 600 local composers and their right to draw an income from their works.

My Government has worked closely with the FPRA to enforce the copyright laws on local compositions and end the reign of the pirates. It hasn’t always been easy and we still have some way to go. But we share a determination to stamp out the intellectual theft that has deprived local composers of the money they deserve and will keep hunting the pirates down.

But tonight is a night to celebrate – as we honour the achievements of our local composers, singers and artists in 12 categories covering the full spectrum of Fijian music.

We have the usual varieties – of best I’Taukei song, best Indo-Fijian song, best English song. But I’d also like to make a plea to the industry for more items that are a fusion of some of these genres or of all three.

This is not about diluting our individual cultures and I’m not saying that it should happen all the time. But I personally would like to hear more music that brings some of our cultural strands together to develop a unique and more inclusive Fijian sound.

Just as in our nation as a whole, we are moving away from separate development to encourage unity and the notion of One Fiji, we don’t want to perpetuate a form of cultural apartheid when it comes to the performing arts. And I think there are definitely opportunities for composers to start bringing some of these strands together when they write their tunes and songs.

Ladies and Gentlemen, this is not a night for political speeches but to put the spotlight on those men and women in the music industry who make us all proud.

Nonetheless, I just want to make the observation that the success of your industry in many ways mirrors the success of our nation as a whole.

There’s a new spirit in Fiji, a new confidence, as more and more people realise that we don’t have to remain locked in the past, that we can work together as a nation in a new way that is more inclusive and more creative.

We’re rather like a bunch of individual musicians with a variety of talents and instruments finally coming together and realising that we can form a pretty tight band.

At last, Fiji as a nation is beginning to find its voice. The discordant notes of the past have faded and everyone has begun to sing together in harmony. And it’s a song of unity, of every Fijian belonging, expressing our collective dream that we can finally fulfil our destiny and truly be The Way the World Should Be.

As I keep saying all over the country, and especially to our young people: there has never been a better time to be Fijian.

Great things await us as a nation if we can stay unified and focussed. And as this evening shows, there has also never been a better time to be a Fijian composer, musician or performer.

Congratulations to all the winners and all those who have made this industry what it is.

Vinaka vakalevu. Thank you. And I hope you all have a great night.

SPEECH: PRIME MINISTER VOREQE BAINIMARAMA AT THE OFFICIAL OPENING OF THE LAMI HIGH SCHOOL TELECENTRE

Bula Vinaka and a very good afternoon to you all.

It’s a great pleasure to be in Lami today to officially open yet another Government Telecentre – the latest in our communications revolution.
You are joining more than 77-thousand Fijians from around the country who are already using these Telecentres to connect to the Internet and enter the digital age.

Like the 24 others currently up and running, it is for the use of students during school hours and the rest of the community in the evening and on weekends.

While our primary focus has been on installing these facilities in rural and maritime areas, I have made sure that larger towns and cities are not overlooked.

I’ve been told that 65 per cent of Lami High School’s 352 students don’t have access to a personal computer and Internet connection at home. That’s more than 225 students. And this doesn’t even take into account the 5,000 members of the local community.

That’s why it’s so important that the benefits of this initiative are spread evenly around the country, urban and rural alike.

Ladies and Gentlemen,
It’s not possible to overstate the power of the Internet. With the click of a mouse, you can access any piece of information ever known to mankind. You can connect with friends and family living halfway around the world just like they are sitting in your own living room. You can find out what’s happening in every corner of the globe and share your ideas and stories with people in other countries.

For some of you, this may all sound a bit intimidating at first; don’t feel bad if it doesn’t make sense straight away. There will be someone here to help you get the hang of it and I have no doubt that once you start exploring the Web, you’ll begin to understand how big the opportunities are.
Never before has technology had such an ability to end isolation and connect ordinary people to the wider world. The Internet is creating a community of global citizens and all you need for membership is access to a computer.

That’s why my Government is committed to giving every Fijian a passport to the digital world by making sure they have access to computers with an Internet connection.

Thanks to our Telecentres, thousands of people in Viti Levu, Vanua Levu, Ovalau and Kadavu are connecting to the Web for the first time and I will not rest until Fijians everywhere have the same opportunity.

Ladies and Gentlemen,
Never before in Fiji’s history have young Fijians had so much opportunity to get on in life, to carve out worthwhile, interesting careers that will give them the ability to look after themselves and their families.

There has never been a better time to be Fijian, to be a citizen of a nation that stands tall and proud in the world, punches above its weight and has a wonderful future ahead of it. Provided we stay united, work together as a team, and care for each other.

I know that most young people I meet share this vision, this dream. And not just for themselves but for Fiji – one nation working towards a prosperous and just future for every single Fijian.

A Fiji that stands tall and proud in the world and that punches above its weight. A Fiji that is a leader in the region – the hub for trade, investment and technology.

Ladies and Gentlemen,
As I travel around the country speaking with ordinary people, one of the things that I hear most often is the complaint that in the past politicians would make all sorts of promises but would fail to keep them.

Breaking this shameful practice has been one of my proudest accomplishments as your Prime Minister. Since day one, my Government has always been more interested in delivering results than making promises. This Telecentre is proof of that commitment.

Now with Fiji headed towards a national election in just a few months’ time, I have faith in Fijians’ common sense and their ability to separate false promises and outright lies from the truth.

I’d like to give you a recent example, which is related to today’s event. One party recently announced that, if elected, they would launch a National Broadband Policy. I wonder if this party knows that Fiji already has such a policy – put in place by my Government – that was praised as the first of its kind in the region?

The bottom line is that Fijians know when they are being empowered, when they are finally getting the services they deserve – real benefits like free education, better housing, better roads, better access to electricity and water. And as in today, the opportunity to be connected to the wider world.

And so I urge you to think very carefully about who you are going to vote for in the upcoming election. It’s a very important decision that comes down to whose vision for the country you believe in the most – a stable, united, prosperous future for all or a return to the divided Fiji of old.

It has become increasingly clear that some people want to throw the country into reverse and drag us all back to the past.

Their petty squabbling and division has brought Fiji to its knees before and yet now they are trying to convince you that they can work together. It’s nothing more than a coalition of hypocrites.

The whole country knows that the only thing these parties have in common is opposition to my Government’s reforms. They are united only by their determination to wind back the clock, to reject the advances of the past seven years and restore their own privileged positions at the expense of ordinary Fijians.

As a nation, we must say “no” to these tired old faces who are employing the same style of politics that we’ve experienced before. Now is the time to say “yes” to a new era of unity, stability and consistency.
With those words, Ladies and Gentlemen, it is now my pleasure to officially open the Lami High School Telecentre.

Vinaka Vakalevu. Thank you.

PRIME MINISTER BAINIMARAMA’S SPEECH AT THE OPENING OF THE SUVA MARKET SHELTER FOR RURAL VENDORS

Bula vinaka and good morning to you all.

It’s a great pleasure to be with you today to officially open the new Suva Market shelter, which will greatly improve conditions for vendors who travel to the capital every week to sell their produce.

I have always believed that one of my Government’s most important tasks is to enable ordinary Fijians to achieve their best in life. We don’t believe in handouts, we believe in creating an environment in which individuals can empower themselves through their own hard work and commitment to personal goals.

This means providing them with the skills, tools and resources they need to be a success – whether its tuition free primary and secondary school, access to university through Government loans, or better roads.

Upgrading Fiji’s local municipal markets is one of the most crucial actions we can take to unlock new opportunities for ordinary people.

Markets are the lifeblood of a community. They are a natural attraction to both locals and visitors for the wide selection of fresh produce, local crafts and other items they offer.

There is no better place for Fijians to sell the food they grow, the fish they catch, or the crafts they make.

The income earned at markets helps people support themselves and their families and is a crucial part of Fiji’s rural economy.

But as we all know, without the proper facilities, a market cannot grow to achieve its highest level of operation.

That’s why my Government has made a significant commitment in this year’s budget towards the development of local markets around the country, including those in Nadi, Sigatoka, Savusavu, Labasa and Nausori.

In fact, the Attorney-General was in the West two weeks ago to break ground for the Nadi market extension and which I expect to officially open in July.

Ladies and Gentlemen,
I feel very strongly about this issue because most of the people who travel to sell their produce at market are women.
In Suva, some vendors will arrive the evening before market so that they are ready for an early start the next morning. But until recently, many women were forced to sleep on the street because there was no appropriate accommodation for them to stay in.

This wasn’t clean, it wasn’t safe, it wasn’t dignified and it wasn’t acceptable. Our ladies deserved better and in August last year the Minister for Social Welfare opened Suva’s first accommodation facility for female vendors.

This was a big step forward, but many vendors still had to face long days out in the open with no protection from the elements. If it rained, their produce would get wet and spoil, and customers would be driven indoors away from their stalls. The tarpaulins that some would use simply weren’t up to the job.

The new shelter will change all this, boosting sales and improving working conditions at the same time. The canopy gives protection from both sun and rain, keeps produce dry, and encourages foot-traffic in all weather conditions.

It’s the latest step in Government’s effort to give vendors what they need to have a comfortable environment to sell their goods and take full advantage of the opportunities the market offers.

At the end of the day, the 500,000 dollars Government has provided for this facility is a small price for something that will improve the lives of so many.

But I’m also excited about today’s opening for another reason.

The new market shelter is the latest chapter in Suva’s rebirth. With each passing month, we’re seeing new facilities and infrastructure appear that are transforming our capital city.

Piece by piece Suva is regaining its position as the pride of the Pacific – not just Fiji’s shining capital but the booming hub of the region.

Indeed, the development of Suva in the last few years has been remarkable.

When tourists used to visit us here, they saw a city that was past its prime. Run-down and not well maintained, which they took to be symbolic of our country as a whole.

Now when they visit, they see a city and a country on the rise, ready to grab its rightful place as the rising star of the region.

Amongst those who will be introduced to the new Suva are the passengers of the 60 cruise ships that are expected to come to port here this year, including the 14 that have already arrived.

This is very good news for Suva’s shops and restaurants because the money these tourists spend flows directly to them and into the Fijian economy.

The newly upgraded Suva Market can take advantage of this tourism boom as well, especially if we position it as a must-see stop on tours of the city.

Around the world, markets are leading tourist destinations because of the authentic experience they offer visitors and for the wide range of items on sale. There’s no reason this shouldn’t be the case in Suva.

Tourists can buy peanuts, pineapples, mandarins or whatever else to fuel them as they explore the rest of the city.

But tourists are also looking to buy authentic souvenirs to remember their time here. This is an opportunity for us to make sure that Government’s push to develop municipal markets ties in with another initiative of ours: the Fijian Made Campaign.
We want tourists to buy products that have been made in Fiji by Fijians, not knock-offs produced overseas. This is one of the reasons why my Government’s Fijian Made initiative is so important. The Fijian Made logos let visitors easily distinguish between what’s authentic and what’s not.

I would like to appeal to all Fijian craftsmen and vendors selling authentic goods to contact the Ministry of Industry and Trade to see how you can participate in this campaign, if you haven’t already. It’s a free initiative that will help you earn more money and will help our country as a whole by supporting local businesses, families and communities.

With those words, Ladies and Gentlemen, it is now my pleasure to officially declare the new Suva Market shelter open.

Vinaka vakalevu. Thank you

CLOSING ADDRESS AT THE COCA COLA GAMES

Bula vinaka and a very good afternoon to you all.

Once again the Fiji Secondary Schools Athletics Championships – the Coca-Cola Games – are drawing to a close. And I just want to say a few words about why these games are important and what they mean for us all.
Once again we’ve seen two days of great competition, of triumphs and disappointments. To the winners I say, congratulations. To be a champion here means that you are the best in Fiji.

We pay tribute to your achievement, your dedication to the long hours of training that brought you here, your determination and your will to win.

To those who fell short , we also convey our congratulations. Because to make it here – to be among the best of the best – is an achievement in itself.

You too have shown discipline and commitment. Doing your best, competing in a spirit of friendly competition and losing with grace is also the mark of a great athlete and sports person.

Never before have Fijians enjoyed such a magnificent venue as this new ANZ Stadium. Many of you will have trained on school and village ovals . But to come to this world-class facility in our capital city is a special occasion that you will all remember for the rest of your lives.

I want to repeat something here that I have been saying at schools all over Fiji; there has never been a better time in the entire history of our nation to be a Fijian.

But I also want you all to think more as a team – Team Fiji – in which we all work together in a unified way to put scores on the board for our nation. We have a vision to make Fiji Great. But that can only happen with team work, of everyone putting our country before ourselves and looking out for our team-mates. Caring for each other. Making sure no other player is left behind. Treating everyone with respect.

We are all ultimately on the same team. And we all have cause to be patriotic because we live in a country of great beauty, abundant resources and wonderful people.

As we leave here this afternoon after two days of competition, let’s think about how fortunate we all are to be Fijians and dedicate ourselves to continue to build a new Fiji, a better Fiji, with justice and opportunity for all.

Vinaka vakalevu. Thank you.

OPENING AND HANDING OVER OF PIDF SECRETARIAT BUILDING

Bula vinaka and a very good morning to you all.

I’m delighted to be herefor a truly historic occasion in the life of our nation and our region – the inauguration of the new Headquarters of the Secretariat of the Pacific Islands Development Forum.

We are beginning a new era of regional cooperation – one that is much more inclusive than that of any existing structure.

The PIDF is a grand coalition of Pacific Governments, civil society organisations and business, all working together to enhance the cause of Pacific peoples everywhere. And it is a great honour for Fiji to be given the responsibility of providing this new organisation with a home. Every Fijian joins me in welcoming the PIDF Secretariat to Fiji, and especially the citizens of our capital, Suva.

All around us in recent years, we have witnessed the rejuvenation of Suva as we cement its position as the true hub of the Pacific. The PIDF is another great adornment to the harbour city we all love. And we regard it as an immense privilege to have been given the opportunity to give this new regional body a permanent base.

I said at the inaugural Pacific Islands Development Forum in Nadi last August that were determined to avoid any hint of extravagance as we set out to build the PIDF from the ground up. My fellow Pacific leaders and I all agree on the basic premise of doing more for less.

We want the PIDF to reflect the values of the grassroots – ordinary Pacific islanders – because that is who we are here to serve. So this is not a grand headquarters – a luxurious new building to house a bloated bureaucracy – but an old colonial residence that more recently housed the Fijian Government’s Audiovisual unit.

I’m sure you’ll all agree that the restoration and refurbishment of this building has provided us with a very serviceable headquarters for the Secretariat. It is relatively modest in keeping with our objectives but I’m sure it will also be a pleasant and productive environment for those who work here.

While we are starting small, let there be no doubt that the thirteen Pacific countries who have already joined Fiji in the PIDF have big ambitions for the organization.

We would like to see it as the pre-eminent regional grouping for one simple reason. That for the first time, we have an organization that gives voice to the aspirations of all Pacific Islanders and not just the elites. One that is closer to the grassroots because it reflects the views of all sections of Pacific society – Governments, civil society groups and business.

It is not a question of prestige or establishing yet another talkfest. It is about creating an organization that is more attuned to our development needs as Pacific countries. It is about creating an organization that is relatively free of interference from outsiders. But above all, it is about creating an organisation in which all Pacific decision-makers at every level feel they have a stake. That reflects the concerns of ordinary people and addresses their needs.

Fiji, for one, is convinced that the current regional architecture is inadequate. We don’t see the PIDF as a competitor for the existing Pacific Islands Forum. It is not a question of Governments having to choose between the two. But Fiji no longer believes that the Pacific Islands Forum – in its existing form – adequately serves the interests of all Pacific islanders. We also believe that the Forum has become overly bureaucratic.

Moreover, the fact that membership of the Pacific islands Forum is confined to governments means that the agendas and priorities of important segments of Pacific societies have been ignored.

Governments do not have a monopoly on wisdom when it comes to solving the complex social, economic and environmental questions we face as Islanders. Regional leaders cannot merely prescribe solutions to the challenges we all face. We badly needed to cast the net wider and with the PIDF, we have.

With this partnership between governments, civil society and business, we are in a much better position to listen more to our people and their common sense approach to problem solving. And we are in a much better position to tap into the knowledge of our business communities, who generate the jobs we all need to raise living standards and improve the lives of our people.

For its part, Fiji wants a fundamental realignment of the Pacific Islands Forum before it considers rejoining that organisation. But in the meantime, we see our future firmly planted in the PIDF. And we are encouraging all Pacific countries and territories – along with their civil society groups and business leaders – to join us.

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, in closing I would like to pay tribute to all those involved in bringing this project to fruition. All of what you see here has happened since last August so our thanks go to everyone for a wonderful effort.

Given our interest in conservation and the Green and Blue Economy, I’m especially pleased to learn of the special effort that has been made to source the timber used in the renovation from sustainable sources and to use forest residue and offcuts in some of the furniture.

In two months’ time, we will all gather in Nadi again for the Second Pacific Islands Development Forum, where I look forward to welcoming my fellow leaders, along with the rest of our coalition partners.

We have a lot of preparation to do and especially those in the Secretariat. So it gives me great pleasure now to officially declare the PIDF Secretariat building open and hand over the keys.

Vinaka vakalevu, Thank you.

SPEECH AT THE OPENING OF NAGIGI SDA PRIMARY SCHOOL NEW CLASSROOM BLOCKS

I’m delighted to be with you all on this important day for the NagigI Seventh Day Adventist Primary School – a major upgrade of the school’s facilities and one that will benefit every student.

It’s wonderful to see so many bright young faces before me this afternoon. There are now 162 students here compared to a roll of just 20 when this school was established in 1960. And before anything else, I want to say something to each of you young people.

As I keep telling students all over the country. There has never been a more exciting time to be a Fijian. In fact, you are growing up with more opportunity in 2014 than any child has had in Fijian history.

My Government has taken the pressure off your parents and is providing free schooling for the first time. They don’t have to pay your fees any longer here at the primary school or at high school. There is absolutely no reason for any Fijian student to now not finish High School. And if you want to go on to University to become a doctor or a teacher, or to a technical college to become a farmer or a carpenter or a mariner, we will pay for that too. You’ll be able to get a loan from the Government for this and pay us back when you start work.

But if you study hard and become one of the top 600 students, no matter who you are and who your parents are, you will get a scholarship which you do not have to pay back. We also, under the Tertiary Education Scheme, provide living subsidies for those from low-income families.
It’s all about providing a better opportunity for you to gain the knowledge and skills you need when you get older to look after yourself and your own family. But it’s also for the benefit of our nation – part of my Government’s vision to make Fiji a clever country and compete better against the rest of the world.

In return, I ask all of you to work hard at your studies. For your parent’s sake, for your country’s sake but especially for your own sake. Because if you work hard here, all sorts of doors will open up to you and a world of opportunity will be at your feet.

I want you children to think of yourselves as part of a team – Team Fiji – in which we all work together as a nation like a sporting team to make Fiji Great.

It doesn’t matter who you are or where you come from in the new Fiji. We all have the same chance to get on in life. And I want you to think far beyond your home.

I want more people from Vanua Levu and the rest of Fiji to also go out into the world, to expand their horizons and get jobs in other places.

If you have a good education, the world can be your oyster. So I urge all of you to dream big dreams and to work as hard as you can at school. We are giving you great opportunities. It is up to you to make the most of them. To pick up the ball and run.

For you, it all starts here, in the Nagigi Primary School, which suddenly becomes a much better school today because of the two new classrooms that have been built for you.

I’m very pleased that my Government was able to fully fund this work totaling more than $47,000. But I’m even more delighted because these facilities will immediately improve the quality of teaching and learning in this remote part of Fiji.

For too long, rural and remote school students have been deprived of good facilities but under my Government, all that is coming to an end. Yes, we have some work to do. But we are determined to enhance the learning experience for every child in Fiji. And that means providing schools with proper resources and investing in the future of our young people. Investing in the future of our beloved nation.

Once again, a big thank you, a big vinaka vakalevu for the effort of parents, teachers, staff and the entire community. And I now have much pleasure in officially declaring the two new classrooms open.

Vinaka vakalevu and thank you.

SPEECH AT THE UPGRADING OF BAGASAU NURSING STATION

Bula vinaka and a very good afternoon to you all.

I’m delighted to be here to share this day with the people of Bagasau as we celebrate the opening of this new staff accommodation at your Nursing Station.

Providing adequate health care for ordinary Fijians is one of my Government’s top priorities. In fact, we have an obligation to do so under the Constitution. So I’m very pleased that the facilities that other Fijians have come to expect in other parts of the country are also being upgraded at Bagasau.

This new accommodation for the nurses here recognises the value my Government places on looking after the welfare of health workers in more remote parts of Fiji. They have a job in looking after this community and they deserve the very best that we can give them. With better accommodation we expect the commitment of the health workers to do their jobs even better, will increase.

I also ask you to do everything you can to support them. They are here to look after you but I’d like to also encourage you all to do more to look after yourselves. Because good health is not only about getting access to a cure if you fall ill or have an accident. It’s also about preventing illness in the first place.

We all need to do a lot more to look after our health by eating well and exercising. Prevention is better than cure.
And pursing a healthy lifestyle is vital if we are to make any progress in combatting the non-communicable diseases that are destroying the health of our people and killing far too many Fijians – such things as diabetes, hypertension, heart disease and strokes.

Of course, you can do everything you can to look after yourself and still get sick. But at least help is close at hand and I know this facility has been a huge benefit for the people of this area.

As you all know, my Government is now providing free education to our primary and secondary school students and a tertiary loans scheme for those who want to go on to university or a technical college. We also have a fully paid scholarship for the top 600 students, no matter who they are, as long as they work hard.

But there is also much more that we want to do to provide ordinary Fijians with easier and more affordable access to health care. We have been making this a national priority and my Government will continue to invest in our public health system. But the upgrading of this Nursing Station is a sign of that commitment – to have a more healthy country as well as a clever country.

We also need to do a lot more to provide opportunities for ordinary people, especially in the North, to participate in the economy. To earn incomes, to sell things that they make or grow, or start small businesses. In fact tomorrow, I’ll be opening yet another of the Government’s Women’s Resource Centres in Bua to provide ordinary women with an income stream.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I was recently touring the country gathering the 5000 signatures I need to officially register my proposed political movement – the Proposed “FijiFirst”. It has been a wonderful experience to meet so many people face to face and I want to thank everyone who has turned out to greet me. Some of them, especially in the rural areas, have walked for hours to see me. I am both humbled and deeply appreciative.

Of course, I cannot start campaigning for the forthcoming election until my proposed movement is officially registered. I know I said I would do this by April 22nd. But I have had so many people saying they haven’t yet had the opportunity to add their signatures to my list, that I genuinely feel I owe it to them to give them the chance to do so. So I am extending my registration drive to allow that to happen and now hope to conclude the process in the next few weeks.

In the meantime, my focus is on meeting the needs of ordinary Fijians. And about me governing for all Fijians, no matter who they are or where they live. To make sure that you finally get the basic services that you and your family deserve and that previous governments didn’t provide.

I have a very simple philosophy as Prime Minister. Whatever your background is, however, old you are, wherever you come from or whatever religious beliefs you hold or denomination you belong to, if you want to work hard to make Fiji great, I’m with you. All the way.

The Government isn’t here to give you handouts. It is here to give you a leg-up. To empower you. To give you the things you need to help yourself.

We also want every Fijian, wherever they live, to have access to the same level of services. The people of the North should enjoy the same services as the people of Viti Levu. The people of Bagasau should have the same services as the people of Labasa or Savusavu. And we are doing everything we can as a Government to bridge the gap – whether it’s in health, education, or access to electricity, telecommunications and water.

Ladies and Gentlemen, to conclude, I would like to thank everyone involved in the task of getting this project off the ground – the people of Bagasau, the local Mataqali and the Ministry of Health.

As I keep stressing, we are here to serve the Fijian people and today marks yet another phase in serving the needs of the people of this part of the North.

I now have great pleasure in declaring the new staff accommodation at the Bagasau Nursing Station open.

Vinaka vakalevu.
Thank you.

SPEECH AT THE OPENING OF BA CIVIC MUSEUM AND 75TH ANNIVERSARY OF BA TOWN COUNCIL

Bula vinaka and a very good morning to you all.

I’m delighted to be back in Ba 75 years to the day since the official proclamation of Ba as a township on April the 11th, 1939.

It is a truly historic day and an honour for me as Prime Minister to be with you all to launch the 75th anniversary celebration of this great town.

I came through Ba as a private citizen early this week on my blue bus gathering the signatures I need to register my proposed political party – the proposed Fiji First. As per the law we of course are not allowed to campaign for the forthcoming election until the proposed Fiji First is registered. But I would just like to say how touched I was by the welcome I received all over the West and how much I enjoyed meeting so many of my fellow Fijians face-to-face.

But, Ba toh Ba hai! Ba is Ba!

Ba for all of you, its citizens, always was and always will be in your hearts and minds, by far the best place in Fiji. The citizens of Ba are well known and admired for their loyalty to and pride in their town. This pride and loyalty is probably unmatched in Fiji.

And today, every Fijian joins you in celebrating your anniversary and commemorating the contribution Ba has made and is making to our nation and its development.

Today is a day to reflect on the past and I’m especially delighted to be here to officially open the Ba Civic Museum. This is where the story of Ba is told through the various exhibits, the history of Ba comes alive.

Those exhibits include a replica of the seal used by the then Governor of Fiji, Sir Harry Luke, to officially proclaim Ba a township. We can only imagine what a momentous day that was – April the 11th, 1939 – just five months before the outbreak of World War Two.

Fiji, of course, was a British colony and Ba was already a thriving centre of the sugar cane industry run at the time by the Colonial Sugar Refining Company of Australia.

That industry was naturally a magnet for people seeking jobs and a better life. And around the sugar industry grew a commercial centre to service the growing population – the germ of the thriving township Ba has become today.

The Ba Civic Museum provides us with a window into the past and I urge everyone, and especially our young people, to learn more about the story of Ba by visiting this place. I also hope that other cities and towns in Fiji consider setting up the same kind of facility to tell their own stories. Because engendering a sense of civic pride is no less important than instilling a sense of national pride.

People need to feel a sense of belonging wherever they live, a town, a big city or a nation. And part of that sense of belonging comes from knowing the story of where one lives and learning more about the lives of those who came before.

As we all know, Ba has had its setbacks, especially some devastating floods over the years. The most recent – in 2012 – saw the entire town submerged. But one of the great things about Ba is the “never say die” spirit of its people and their determination to bounce back. Its strong sense of community.

Ba Toh Ba Hai! Ba is Ba!

A place where people are fiercely proud and have a can-do attitude. Certainly for a relatively small place, Ba has always had a big influence on our nation’s affairs, whether it’s as the Soccer Kings of Fiji or the dozens of sons and daughters of Ba who occupy leadership roles at every level across Fiji.

There are certainly far too many to individually acknowledge. Of course many of the biggest commercial houses in Fiji have also sprung from humble origins in Ba. All of them job creators, wealth creators, investors and vital contributors to our economy and the prosperity of our nation.

So today is a day for honouring Ba’s past, to look back with pride on 75 years of civic progress. I also want to acknowledge the tens of thousands of ordinary Fijians over the years whose sweat and toil has built this town and built our nation. I especially want to pay tribute to those in the sugar cane industry – the farmers, the cane cutters, the mill workers – all those who have contributed to this vital sector of our national economy.

And I want to single out one family as I turn our attention from the past to the future, and the vision I have for this town and this nation in the years ahead.

This has been a big week for the Chand family of Ba as their son, Ravinesh, graduates from the University of the South Pacific. On Wednesday night, Ravinesh received a Gold Medal from His Majesty the King of Tonga for being the most outstanding graduate with a major in Education plus the Vice Chancellor’s prize for the best combined academic performance and all round service to the community.

Truly, a son of Ba to make us all proud. But all the more so because of the emotional tribute Ravinesh Chand paid to his parents for encouraging him to fulfill his dreams.

They aren’t from one of the rich families of Ba. They are from one of the poorest. Ravinesh’s father is a cane cutter. And we can only imagine the sacrifices they have made over the years – all their hard work – to produce this outstanding result.

I would have liked Ravinesh to be here today in his home town to receive the acclaim he so thoroughly deserves. Unfortunately, he has had to attend a graduation function in Suva. But I’m telling you his story because he not only deserves to be regarded as a hero in Ba. He is an inspiration to every young Fijian. A symbol of what anyone can become if they work hard enough. A symbol of our potential to become a clever country.

As I keep saying at schools around the nation. I want the young people of Fiji to dream big dreams. To take advantage of the free schooling they have now been given. To take advantage of the tertiary loans they can now receive or the full scholarships for the top 600 students. They too can be like Ravinesh Chand. Like him, they can overcome the challenges of a poor background and achieve outstanding success. And as a nation, we need to give them all the assistance we can.

As I also keep saying. This is a great time to be a Fijian,
greater than at any other time in our history. We have embarked on a new journey and in a new direction as one nation, one people. And by working together and putting Fiji first, our nation first, I am convinced that we can truly make Fiji great. That we can finally fulfill our destiny and genuinely make Fiji the way the world should be, rather than just an empty slogan.

All around us, there is hard evidence that our economy is growing and business confidence and investment is on the rise. You don’t have to take my word for it. Just this week, one of the world’s most rigorous economic examiners, Moody’s Investors Service, has given Fiji a big tick.

Moodys said the Fijian economy is experiencing robust growth on the back of an upturn in business confidence and investment. And it said the Government’s fiscal and debt consolidation has bolstered Fiji’s credit worthiness.

So here is one of the toughest economic analysts in the world expressing confidence in Fiji and acknowledging our economic growth forecast.

As I say, it is a great time to be Fijian. And also a great time to live in Ba – a town with a wonderful history and an even better future.

75 years on, we have much to celebrate. And with those words, I have great pleasure in declaring the new Ba Civic Museum open.

Vinaka vakalevu. Thank you.

PRIME MINISTER’S SPEECH AT THE OPENING OF THE BUKAMA PRIMARY SCHOOL

Bula vinaka and a very good morning to you all.

I’m delighted to be here in the Yasawas to open the new Bukama School, which replaces the one that was destroyed by Tropical Cyclone Evan on the 17th of December 2012.

It’s wonderful to see so many bright, young faces as we enjoy the brilliant sunshine today and reflect on how far we’ve come since that dark day 16 months ago.

It was a time of immense heartbreak for the people of Bukama and Yasawa-i-rara.

We gave thanks to God as a nation that because we had prepared well for the onslaught of Evan, we were spared any loss of life. But it was still a traumatic event for all of you – the loss of many of your homes and possessions, the feeling of isolation and uncertainty and for our young people here, the loss of their place of learning.

I will never forget coming here a week after the disaster, meeting you all, listening to what you had all been through and assessing the damage. More than anything else, I will never forget your determination to recover from the disaster, to rebuild your lives and rebuild your homes and your school.

There and then, I approved the rebuilding of this school – to replace the previous wooden structure with a much stronger concrete classroom block. It is a building designed to withstand any repeat of Cyclone Evan, which we know will come one day but for which we will now be a lot better prepared.

I have said before that the whole of Fiji was inspired by the spirit of the people of the Yasawas – the way they faced the challenge posed by Evan with courage, optimism and strength.

Indeed, I was so personally impressed that I wanted that spirit to be commemorated in a lasting way. So now the name Yasawa-i-rara is being carried to the great airports of the Asia Pacific on the side of our new Fiji Airways A330, Island of Yasawa-i-rara.

I want to express my thanks to all of you who have contributed to the rebuilding of this school and its three new classrooms – to the RFMF engineers who supervised the project and the local community who provided the labour force.

There are many things that I am proud of about the RFMF, where I spent 39 years before I stood down as Commander to contest the forthcoming general election. But there are few things that I am more proud of than the work our engineers have done for the benefit of ordinary Fijians around the country. To these fine men and women, vinaka vakalevu.

This project – which has cost $172-thousand – will benefit 75 students from two villages – 46 from Bukama and 29 from Yasawa-in-rara. I now want to say something to each of you young people.

There has never been a more exciting time to be a Fijian. You are growing up with more opportunity in 2014 than any child has had in Fijian history.

My Government has taken the pressure off your parents and is providing free schooling for the first time. They don’t have to pay your fees any longer here or at high school if you go on to further studies, which I urge you all to do. And if you want to go on to University to become a doctor or a teacher, or to a technical college to become a farmer or a carpenter or a mariner, we will pay for that too. You’ll be able to get a loan from the Government for this and pay us back when you start work.

But if you study hard and become one of the top 600 students, you will get a scholarship which you do not have to pay back. We also, under the Tertiary Education Scheme, provide living subsidies for those from low-income families.

It’s all about providing a better opportunity for you to gain the knowledge and skills you need when you get older to look after yourself and your own family. But it’s also for the benefit of our nation- part of my Government’s vision to make Fiji a clever country and compete better against the rest of the world.
I want you children to think of yourselves as part of a team – Team Fiji – in which we all work together like a sporting team to put Fiji First and make Fiji Great.

It doesn’t matter who you are or where you come from in the new Fiji. We all have the same chance to get on in life. And I want you to think far beyond your island home.

As you know, people from all over the world come to the Yasawas because they have become famous as a place to holiday – famous for their beauty and the friendly welcome of their people. But I want more people from the Yasawas and the rest of Fiji to also go out into the world, to expand their horizons and get jobs in other places.

If you have a good education, the world can be your oyster. So I urge all of you to dream big dreams and to work as hard as you can at school. We are giving you great opportunities. It is up to you to make the most of them. To pick up the ball and run.

For you, it all starts here in the classroom block behind me that many of your fathers – with the help of our RFMF engineers – have built for you. So I have great pleasure today in declaring the new Bukama Primary School open.

Vinaka vakalevu. Thank you.

Bainimarama presents training gear to the Ono Cricket team