Posts tagged Flag


Cola Vina and a very good afternoon to you all.

I’m delighted to be here with you to officially open one of the most important things we are doing for ordinary Fijian women – giving them secure and clean accommodation as they strive to make a living for themselves and their families, in this instance at Sigatoka Council Market.

As you know, I have opened similar facilities in other places such as Suva, Nadi and Lautoka. And now, the same benefit comes to the women-vendors who come to the Sigatoka Market from surrounding areas.

What we are doing here is providing a home away from home for our women who leave their families behind in outlying areas and make their way to town to sell their produce.

For too long, we have allowed our women to sometimes spend several days sleeping on the footpath beside their stalls. They have been vulnerable to thieves and to the weather. And just as bad for them and their families, they have left behind loved ones who worry about whether their mother, sister or daughter is safe.

All this now comes to an end with the provision of this complex, where our women can not only sleep, but have access to showers and proper toilet facilities for the first time. They can now sleep soundly after their long days of hard work. And so can their families back home.

It is one of the most important things we have done for ordinary Fijian women – who I always describe as the most important people in all our lives. And as your Prime Minister, I’m very proud that the FijiFirst Government has been able to deliver this benefit to you and serve you in the way you deserve.

We have spent $400,000 on this project to provide 30 beds, a kitchen area, a washing area, and the toilets and showers. We’re also building a canteen and a training room next to this accommodation to train our vendors on how to improve their individual businesses, manage their earnings and generally boost their livelihoods.

And this, my fellow Fijians, is just the start. Because we intend to renovate the whole of the Sigatoka Market to provide better facilities for every vendor – whether they live in a rural area or in town.

I’m told that of the 180 or so vendors here, 84 are women. I know that some of you come from up to 75 kilometres away. I assure you that we intend to do everything we can to make your lives easier and more pleasant.

As well as thanking the Ministry of Local Government and the Sigatoka Town Council for making this facility possible, I also want to thank the Shangri-La Fijian Hotel for providing $30,000 to finance the toilet facilities. Vinaka vakalevu to you all.

My fellow Fijians, I’m delighted by the reaction – both here and overseas – to the plan I announced on Tuesday to change our national flag and replace its British symbols with others that are indigenous and truly Fijian.

There has been some criticism from those who would prefer the British symbols to our own, but I am very pleased to see that so many Fijians have their eyes on the future, and not the past.

I want every Fijian here today to think very carefully about what symbols they believe best represent our nation now and that will also resonate with future generations of Fijians in the decades and centuries ahead.

Through a competition in our schools – that we plan to launch before the end of the month – every Fijian young person will be given a chance to put forward their designs. All other Fijians will also be given an opportunity to contribute their ideas.

A National Panel of Citizens – established by the Government and broadly representative of all Fijians – will then examine those designs and work with the Parliament to make a final selection. At that point, Fijians will be given a say on what designs they prefer. All with a view to hoisting our new flag – a genuinely Fijian flag not someone else’s – on the 45th anniversary of our Independence from Britain – October the 10th, 2015.

I urge you all to support this initiative, to look to the future not the past, to give every Fijian a symbol we can be even more proud of as we build a stronger and more unified nation and achieve the greatness that we all believe we are capable of. The Fijian nation taller and stronger in the world than ever before.

Even within the space of 48 hours, the world is recognising what we are doing. Our plan has made news on five continents. From India and China to places like Venezuela and around the globe. It has appeared in the great media outlets of the world – the BBC, the New York Times, the Times of London and the Wall Street Journal, which referred in its headline to Fiji “breaking the shackles of colonialism.”
And it has made news especially in Australia and New Zealand, whose citizens are also debating replacing the Union Flag with their own symbols. And in the case of New Zealand, that process is well underway.

I want to again stress that Britain remains our friend and we will always value our historical link to Britain and the British Crown. We also value the infrastructure the British left us – such as the magnificent site of our new Parliament – and all those great British institutions that remain – most notably our Westminster system of Parliament and our independent system of justice.

The Constitution that set up our new democracy last year strengthens those institutions. So they will continue to be relevant to us and highly valued in the years ahead. Certainly, Britain itself understands that after 45 years, we want to embrace our own symbols.

I want to thank the British High Commissioner to Fiji for saying that the flag is a matter for the Fijian Government and people. And that Britain looks forward to learning more about the process as it moves forward. The British were our friends before, they are our friends now, and they will be our friends long into the future.

Yet even they understand that the Union Flag is their flag, not our flag. The British Lion and Saint George’s Cross are their symbols, not our symbols. And it is our right as a nation to carve out our own identity and fulfil our own destiny.

So, my fellow Fijians, whether you have access to a computer and a fancy design program, or whether you just have a pen and paper, I urge you all to join our effort to design a symbol that we can all identify with and is instantly recognisable as Fijian the world over.

No one with an idea should be afraid to share it. Your design may not be the final design, but your idea might form the basis of a wider design and play an important role in the final outcome.

So I say to every Fijian: Let your imagination soar. There’s a song that says, “From little things big things grow.” So think big. Let’s get together as a nation and come up with something big. Something that will inspire our generation and future generations and fill us with even more patriotism and pride.

Proud to be Fijian. Proud to be citizens of a nation with its eyes on the future, not the past. A nation that is already great, but will be even greater under a new symbol – a new flag.

My fellow Fijians, all this is to come. But now, I have great pleasure in declaring the new women’s accommodation at the Sigatoka Council Market officially open.

Vinaka vakalevu. Thank you.


Bula vinaka and a very good afternoon to you all.

I’m delighted to be here today to officially open the Legal Aid Commission’s Office in Nasinu – close on the heels of opening a similar office in Nausori yesterday.

This is yet another facility I’m opening to give the Fijian people access to the justice system. As I’ve said before: I regard my Government’s provision of equal access to justice for all Fijians as one of our most important priorities.

What we are doing with these offices is opening up the legal system to many who have always found it inaccessible, intimidating and expensive. In these offices, ordinary people have easy and ready access to the best legal advice. And all the services here are free for those who qualify for legal assistance.

My fellow Fijians, I’ve chosen Nasinu today – in the heart of the most populated corridor in Fiji – to make a major announcement of importance to all Fijians and the future of our beloved nation.

As I signaled in my New Year’s message at the start of 2013, we need a new flag. But in the past two years, of course, we were consumed with the monumental task of holding our first genuinely democratic election in Fijian history – putting all of the pieces together to bring us to where we are today.

But now that our new democracy is in place, we can proceed with the program I flagged at the beginning of 2013 to adopt a symbol that is more in keeping with our national aspirations in the 21st century.

We need to replace the symbols on our existing flag that are out of date and no longer relevant, including some anchored to our colonial past. The new flag should reflect Fiji’s position in the world today as a modern and truly independent nation state.

The existing flag is widely loved and admired and I want to stress that this initiative is in no way a repudiation of it or the warm sentiments we all feel whenever it is raised. It has served us well since it was introduced at Independence in 1970.

Our United Nations peacekeeping troops have fought and sometimes died under it. Our sportsmen have stood before it as they achieved some of the greatest and most inspirational victories in our sporting history.

As a nation, we will never forget the image of Iliesa Delana –now an Assistant Minister in my Government – waving our flag before the vast crowd and the global television audience when he won Gold at the London Paralympics. And, of course, every Fijian has stood before it in our schools as they sing our national anthem with patriotism and pride.

So we honour our existing flag as an important link to our past and it will continue to have an important place during the transitional phase to our new national symbol.

But after 45 years, my fellow Fijians, it is time to dispense with the colonial symbols on our flag – the Union Flag of the United Kingdom and our colonial shield – and embrace a flag that is relevant to every Fijian today.

As a Government, we are not embarking on this change lightly. Indeed, you all know that I chose a stylised version of our “noble banner blue” for my FijiFirst political movement that won the September election.

But it is time for us all to embrace change. It is time to sever links that are no longer relevant. It is time to have a national symbol that reflects our present state as a nation. That has indigenous and truly Fijian symbols of identity. That we can honour as a truly authentic expression of our nation now and into the future. And that fills us with even more pride. Promotes even more unity. Because it is relevant and meaningful to us all.

The Union Flag belongs to the British, not to us. The shield on our flag has the British Lion and the Cross of St George – a British patron saint. What does this have to do with us? They are the symbols of the coloniser – Britain – a country with whom we are friends and will continue to be so. But they are not symbols that are relevant to any Fijian in the 21st century. And they should go. Honoured symbols of our past, but not of our future.

Fiji is not alone in wanting to update its national symbol to reflect the changes in its society since it became independent. There are only four Commonwealth nations that still have the Union Flag as part of their national symbols: Australia, New Zealand, Tuvalu and Fiji.

New Zealand has begun a process to change its flag and Australia is currently debating theirs. Fiji intends to the lead the way by adopting a truly authentic expression of who we are and where we are, rather than honour someone else’s flag.

My fellow Fijians, I am today outlining a process that will be inclusive and based on a general consensus to design a new flag. All Fijians, including school children, will be encouraged to enter a national competition for the design of this new national symbol.

We are also going to form a national committee chosen from a broad cross section of Fijian society to judge the entries and choose the most appropriate design.

This National Panel of Citizens – including nominees from the Leader of Opposition – will be set up and selected by Government. All Fijians expect that something so important should be apolitical. So I ask everyone to participate in this most noble of endeavours.

The competition and the formation of the National Panel will commence during this month of February. The competition will be open for two months. And the whole selection process has been designed so that we will be ready to hoist our new flag on the 45th anniversary of our Independence – October the 10th, 2015.

As well as this National Panel of Citizens, every Fijian will be given an opportunity to have a view on this issue and a vote on the final design via social media and text platforms. We urge every Fijian to take part in this process, irrespective of age, gender or socio-economic background.

Of course, the design of the new flag will also be considered by Parliament and I will make a ministerial statement when Parliament resumes next week.

We will all have our own ideas about what should be on the new flag. Through this process, those ideas will all be considered. And so, my fellow Fijians, please give full rein to your imaginations. You can all – including the very young – create a design and submit it.

Your idea may not be the final design, but maybe your idea inspires part of that design. So get involved in the process to create our new flag and our new democracy’s most important symbol for a modern, independent and strong Fiji.

As Prime Minister, I have an open mind about the final outcome. My preference at this stage is to retain the existing “Fiji blue” background – but without the Union Flag and Shield. But I’m excited to see whatever ideas the Fijian people come up with.

We want to encourage new designs and symbols, perhaps indigenous flora and fauna that are unique to Fiji. Designs and symbols that are authentically Fijian. We must all have an open mind about the final result, but it should be symbolic of the unity of the nation and instantly recognisable the world over as uniquely and proudly Fijian.

I call on you all to join me in this historic quest. It is 45 years since Independence. We are no longer the country we were in 1970.

We hold our heads high on the world stage – as a strong independent nation. We have an independent foreign policy of being enemies to none and friends to all. Our new flag needs to make us stand even taller and prouder than our existing one. And it will. Because we are genuinely independent and are standing taller and prouder as Fijians than ever before.

As I said at the start, I chose Nasinu for this announcement because I wanted to do it before an audience of ordinary Fijians. And in this most populous and vibrant part of our nation, nowhere is more appropriate for such a historic announcement.

I also have great pleasure in again formally opening an office of the Legal Aid Commission to benefit ordinary Fijians. And especially one to give them better access to justice.

As I said in Nausori yesterday, there is something especially noble about lawyers providing low income Fijians with access to the law. So I again urge everyone here – lawyers and office staff alike – to uphold my Government’s central ethos of service to the Fijian people. We deliver. We Serve.

My fellow Fijians, I’m now very proud to formally open the Nasinu office of the Legal Aid Commission.

Vinaka Vakalevu. Thank you.