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Turaga Na Tui Wailevu,
Villagers of Wailevu,
Distinguished Guests;
Government Officials;
Ladies and Gentlemen.

Bula Vinaka and good afternoon.

I’m happy to be here with you all today, as we officially commission the Wailotua Village water project. This project, which I promised to you earlier this year as I visited Tailevu, was made possible through our Small Grant Scheme. All requests for assistance run directly through my office, and because of this, I feel personally invested in their success. It brings me great joy to watch them quickly progress from an idea, to a promise, to a reality that improves the lives of our people.

The Small Grants Scheme was designed exactly for this purpose–– to fill the needs of our citizens, as requested directly by you. Because while my Government has marked many milestones and achieved historic accomplishments, the lives of the Fijian people aren’t improved by watching from the sidelines, or even by creating new laws in Parliament. If our elected officials don’t take the time to hear out the concerns of ordinary Fijians, they lose touch with the reality of the needs of our people.

This is what makes people so frustrated and tired with politicians; and trust me, I share these feelings. I’m surrounded by them every day. But while I am your Prime Minister, I am first and foremost a fellow Fijian, and I promise never to lose sight of that. And I encourage all candidates to follow suit. Many in the Opposition are quick to criticise every Government programme just for the sake of scoring political points, with no concern for the thoughts or opinions of the Fijians who they wish to serve. But, ladies and gentlemen, that isn’t service at all. That isn’t leadership. While they are busy making up imaginary problems, my Government is focused on creating real solutions.

When I am touring Fiji, meeting face to face with Fijians from all walks of life, is when I truly get a pulse for the issues that affect you most. And while the projects that we fund through the scheme vary greatly in the size and the issues they address –– from school upgrades to rural electrification to water supply projects like this one –– they all serve a common purpose: to give Fijians today the necessary resources to be the very best versions of themselves. And while it may be called the “Small Grant Scheme”, I can assure you that none of the beneficiaries of these projects feel that the impact on their lives is in any way small. The smiling faces, and the tears of joy, that these grants are greeted with are certainly proof of how big –– and how life-changing –– something like a boat engine, a classroom block, a new road, or water piping can be for a community that needs it.

I know that this project is no different, and that the over $91,000 spent by Government to make it possible was money well-spent. The once-unreliable water supply to Wailotua Village will now be a thing of the past. A new dam intake, new 45,000-litre storage reservoir, and new pipes will all come together to ensure a clean and steady flow of water to the people of your community, making for a healthier and happier future for you and your families.

Ladies and gentlemen, when I say that my Government is working to help all Fijians become the best versions of themselves, I mean it. We are working to break down barriers that used to face our people, and opening up new doors of opportunity every day. This has been the guiding principle behind every landmark initiative that Fiji has spearheaded under my leadership, from our ongoing education revolution to the Micro and Small Business Grants programme to the support of new industries and the provision of new access to information. We are helping Fijians help themselves. By doing so, we are making today the greatest time to be alive in Fijian history.

But while Government can lay the groundwork for Fijians to become the best version of themselves, to truly achieve the best Fiji and feel the benefits of a prospering society, we need the buy-in of our people. We need to hold ourselves to that higher standard as well. The 2018-2019 Budget was widely praised for its focus on families, but I ask all Fijians to take that same focus and use it to reflect on how they can treat each other not only as fellow citizens, but as family. Over the weekend, just across Viti Levu, we saw a tragic multiple-vehicle collision claim the lives of six people, while injuring many more. But while the wreck happened in Sigatoka, I know that the hearts of Fijians everywhere –– here in Tailevu included –– broke with the news. As a tight-knit nation of less than a million people, these are more than just nameless victims. They are a cousin, a friend, a neighbour. As Fijians, we are all intimately connected, and we must never lose sight of that. And I know that Fijians everywhere shared my anger and disgust that some individuals would be so irresponsible as to post images of the deceased on Facebook, or in the case of an insensitive newspaper, posting video of a grieving child who had just learned of the death of his loved ones. At the scene, some stooped so low as to dig through the pockets and steal possessions of the victims ¬¬–– even taking the boots off their feet. And unfortunately, this isn’t the first time we have witnessed such evils. This behaviour is despicable, it is cruel, and it is unacceptable.

As your Prime Minister, I ask that all Fijians to treat each other as family –– and not think of what might get you ‘likes’ on Facebook. Think of the human lives that are impacted by your actions. Put your phone down, and lend a helping hand, or offer your prayers and words of support. And don’t let the evil of a few spread even further by pointing fingers along ethnic lines; indeed, think ethically, not ethnically. As a nation, we need to mature beyond this. We cannot, and we must not, let the worst of us come out in times of tragedy. Because without family, and without values of basic human decency and respect, all of the progress that we have fought for is meaningless. Above all else, we must believe in the humanity of Fiji.

But though this tragedy brought out the worst in a few, it brought out the best in so many more of us. In our grief, the nation came together to condemn these immoral actions, and thousands offered their condolences. And I know that many took from it a teachable moment –– to treat each other with dignity, to drive safely, and to use social media more responsibly. In honour of those who lost their lives, let us all make a promise to ourselves to ensure these lessons stick.

My fellow Fijians, by working to cast aside our differences and come together with renewed values and a common purpose, we will create a brighter future for everyone. This has been what’s driven Fiji’s recent success today, and it’s what will continue to fuel our progress tomorrow. Projects like the Wailotua Water Project are just one of the many that have brought the quality of life of Fijians everywhere to new heights. As we look ahead, let us continue to mark achievements like this one, united together as one Fijian family.

It is now my pleasure to now officially commission the Wailotua Water Project.

Thank you. Vinaka vakalevu.

© 2018 Ministry of Communications