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Media Center > Speeches > HON PM BAINIMARAMA AT THE OPENING OF THE TAILEVU PROVINCIAL COUNCIL MEETING

HON PM BAINIMARAMA AT THE OPENING OF THE TAILEVU PROVINCIAL COUNCIL MEETING

4/26/2018
The Chairman of the Tailevu Provincial Council,
Members of the Tailevu Provincial Council,
Ladies and Gentlemen.

Bula Vinaka and a very good morning to you all.

I’m very glad to be back in Fiji, and I’m especially happy to be here to speak at this first Tailevu Provincial Council meeting of the year.

I’ve returned to Fiji only yesterday from London, where I was representing our nation at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting. That was a meeting I was torn about attending due to the distance it would put between me and the many Fijians reeling from the impacts of TC Josie and TC Keni, but it was a duty I had to fulfil, for Fiji, for our people, for our place in the world, and for our global campaign against climate change.

The world needed to be told what was happening in Fiji. They needed to know of the devastation we suffered from these most recent cyclones, they needed to be told of the experiences of our fellow Fijians who took a big hit during these storms and of those we lost, and they needed to see the human face of climate change and the reality we face here in Fiji.

They needed to know these things because, unfortunately, the experts tell us storms like Cyclones Evan, Winston, Josie and Keni are only going to become stronger in the years ahead due to the worsening effects of climate change. So no matter how well we respond to these storms, the threat we face is only becoming more severe.

That is why we must address the root cause of this problem and lead the global community to reduce the harmful emissions causing our climate to change and adapt our communities to the climate impacts already upon us. And in London at CHOGM, again I put our case to the world, this time, to the 53 countries of the Commonwealth and the 2.4 billion citizens they together represent.

In London, I was also very proud to launch the listing of Fiji’s Green Bond – the first sovereign green bond in an emerging economy – on the London Stock Exchange, one of the world’s premier financial markets. This bond will help us raise funds for climate resilient development, including developments right here in Tailevu. That can take the form of seawalls, much like the one we’ve built in Kumi Village, the relocation of communities and the improvement of water management infrastructure for times of flooding, just to name a few possibilities.

So by leading from the front on climate change, we are bringing real benefits to our country. And as members of this council, as leaders you understand what strong, responsible leadership takes. It isn’t only thinking about what happens tomorrow. It’s about considering what will happen years, even decades from now, and doing what needs to be done honestly and with a vision to make sure our people are ready for what is to come. Ready for the challenges on the horizon and ready for the opportunities coming our way.

So when we go to the world on climate change, it is never as victims, but as champions for all those who are vulnerable, and as an ambitious nation, ready to grow, ready to adapt and ready for greater success, even in the face of a changing climate.

We will not be deterred from pursuing new development, like the many projects opened all across Tailevu in recent years, many I’ve had the privilege to open personally. Instead, we will do what we must, pursuing new development that supports the well-being of ordinary people and that can be depended on, even when severe weather strikes.

Make no mistake, there are challenges ahead. We cannot rest on the global stage and we cannot rest here at home. It will take leadership, at every level, for us to get the job done. And as leaders yourselves, you have seen – along with every Fijian – the bold, consistent and inclusive leadership my Government has brought to Fiji. No short-sighted development, no selfish short-cuts and no backwards steps into the past. My Government is about the big picture. We are future-focussed. And we have a recipe for success that has made Fiji and the Fijian people the strongest we have ever been.

Our economy is on track to grow for nine straight years in a row. Our unemployment stands at the lowest rate in 20 years, investment is flowing into the country, moving forward new investment projects across the country. We are also massively expanding the reach of services, water, electricity, telecommunications, along with access to education at all levels, medical and other essential government services that are reaching many remote and rural locations for the very first time. We’ve also seen a boom in infrastructure development, with new roads, bridges, ports and jetties being built around the country, in rural and urban areas alike.

We’ve levelled the playing field in ways that will carry our economy for generations to come, making primary and secondary education free, giving access to scholarships on merit and paying university fees for those who cannot afford to do so through the TELS programme. Today, we have more Fijians in universities and technical colleges than ever before. Today, we do not only have the children of the rich and connected in universities, but the children of all. We’ve also made merit the greatest determination of success in Fijian society. We’ve put the ideas, input and innovation of our people at the centre of our development. Today, every Fijian voice is making a difference, regardless of who their parents are, their ethnicity, religion, gender, physical ability, socioeconomic status or where they come from in Fiji.

As a result, all Fijians are seeing the benefits of our growing economy, including the iTaukei people, who now hold a position of strength and security unrivalled at any other time in our history. The land and rights of the iTaukei are protected and enshrined for all time in the Fijian Constitution – the supreme law of the land that governs every action of my Government.

We’ve dismantled the archaic systems of privilege that long left iTaukei people cash poor, even when they held such valuable assets. Gone are the days where past Governments used land as a political tool, while doing nothing to help the iTaukei people benefit economically and financially from land ownership.

My Government thinks differently. We are a practical government, and we are giving iTaukei communities the tools they need to become much more financially powerful. Again, this financial year we’ve given another ten million dollars to fund iTaukei land development. That money is building roads and connecting subdivisions to water and electricity so that communities can directly sell the leases to make a financial gain. But with economic empowerment comes economic responsibility. And I urge our provincial leaders to encourage responsible financial management, meaning proper saving and smart investments, in our communities.

Here in Talievu, we’ve also battled back from the devastation brought by Cyclone Winston two years ago, we’ve opened new roads and infrastructure, we’ve extended important government services, we’ve brought the great benefits of electric power to more communities and we’ve laid a foundation for future development that will support the ambitions of your province for years to come.

We indeed have a proud record of achievement, and we’ve done so well by putting our stock in the basic principles of good governance: honesty, accountability and transparency. We want ordinary people to see exactly what we’re doing, understand why we do what we do, and be as much a part of our work as possible. That is the mantra that we’ve set out at the national level, and those same standards and expectations apply down the line to the provincial and district levels.

As Provincial Council members, you are respected members of your community, you wield great influence and you are very important partners to my Government. You have your ears to the ground, you hear the concerns of your communities and you can put forward solutions that match what your people need. And we appreciate your support, especially in our work to expand services that are critical for the well-being of all Fijians.

On the issues affecting our people, it is you who are on the frontlines helping realise our national priorities. Whether it is the health of Fijians, the management of our resources, an issue of economic empowerment, or any issue relating to development, you are looked to as leaders. You must keep yourselves informed, you must carry important messages to every Fijian you represent, you must speak up, you must always speak the truth and always reject lies. It is in this spirit of talanoa, my Government is here to listen, we are here to learn from the lessons and experiences you’ve acquired and we are here to deliver for you and your people.

But in all of our work together, none of us can forget that we are here in the service of Fiji. We serve the Fijian people, we do not serve ourselves. And trust me when I tell you, that when you are driven solely by your commitment and responsibility to your fellow Fijians, there is nothing you cannot achieve.

My fellow Fijians,

I am a proud son of Tailevu. I am proud of my history here, and I’m proud of what we’ve achieved together, as a council and as a government, for every Fijian in this province. But I am not only the Prime Minister of Tailevu, I am the Prime Minister of Fiji and I am a Prime Minister for every Fijian. My Government is concerned with what happens here, and with what happens in Naitasiri, Serua, Lomaiviti, Kadavu, and the rest of our provinces, and we are focussed on how all those regions of our country can work together, as one nation, one people united towards one common goal. I am working to build a Fiji where all of you in Tailevu and all of our fellow Fijians across the country have an equal shot in our growing economy. A Fiji where your province does not determine your destiny, but where we all can make our contribution to our national life and development, and all benefit equally from our shared successes.

That is a lesson in leadership that I’m afraid is lost on many of those in the Opposition, so concerned with their own community politics and with getting their slice of the national cake that they lose sight of how to grow that cake big enough so that every Fijian can get their fair share.

We must all be very careful when we listen to these same politicians in the months ahead, as we are approaching an election and we all know how they will likely behave. They’ll come with many of the same doomsday predictions we heard back in 2014; predictions about loss of iTaukei land, predictions about the bad health of our Fijian industries, predictions that, of course, never came to pass. They’ll come with many of the same lies again. Those lies may come from some new faces, but they are lies all the same; lies designed to cause fear, designed to divide us and designed to hold us back from the greatness a united Fiji can achieve.

To the members of this council, I only ask this: firstly, please encourage all those in your communities to register to vote in the forthcoming election. The date of the election has not been set, but it will be soon. And we urge all of those who are eligible to vote to exercise their democratic right. Secondly, encourage your communities to demand the truth from all those seeking seats in this election. Don’t allow anyone to seep fear in your communities, don’t allow anyone to attack the bonds of nationhood that bind us, and don’t ever permit anyone to try and deceive you.

As we look to the future, I can promise I will remain unrelenting, as always, in our journey forward. I will bring the same leadership that has carried our economy to new heights of success, brought new opportunities into the lives of ordinary people, and made Tailevu, and every province in Fiji a better, safer and more prosperous place to live. And I can promise that I will always tell you how it is, I will always be honest with you, and that my Government will always speak and embrace the truth.

I wish you all a very productive first meeting and thank all of you for the warm welcome you’ve afforded me, it has truly been a wonderful welcome back to Fiji.

Vinaka vakalevu. Thank you.
 
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