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The Commissioner for the Fiji Corrections Service,
Senior Corrections Officers;
Ladies and Gentlemen.

Bula Vinaka and a very good morning to you all.

It is a privilege to be here this morning to congratulate these 78 distinguished Fijians – all the pride of their friends and families – who stand ready to enter the ranks of the Fiji Corrections Service.

This is the end of a long journey for all of you; our successful graduates. You have now completed the long months of training and preparations for a career of service to your nation, as officers in our corrections service. That is no small feat, and it speaks to your discipline, your resolve and your patriotism, as Fijians who are dedicating your time, talents and efforts to a cause that is larger than yourselves and that is of the utmost importance to the health of our democracy.

You are now assuming the responsibility for remanding those who have been brought to justice within our judicial system. You are now a part of the criminal justice system that maintains law and order in our society and that– at its best – rehabilitates those who have violated our laws and prepares the vast majority of them to, one day, re-enter our society.

Our laws – and their enforcement – are sacred in our democracy. They are the very foundation of our society; the rules to which all of us are bound and by which we all must abide. And every Fijian deserves to know that the institutions entrusted with upholding our laws are wholly independent. They deserve to know that the women and men who staff those offices hold their positions, not on the basis of who they know, where they come from, who their parents may be, or what their ethnicity or religion may be, but on the basis of merit, their qualifications and their ability to do their jobs as well as they can be done.

That is why – throughout every level of law enforcement in our country – we must have transparency, we must have accountability and we must ensure that all appointments are made on the basis of merit, and merit alone. Because from the moment a crime is reported, to the investigations that follow, to the charges that are brought and to the trial that is held, all the way to the sentence that is decided and carried out, our people must have faith that justice is impartial, objective and equitable. That is why the same high standards that you have all had to meet in your training, must be strictly enforced. Only then can our people have the full confidence that they call home a nation that is truly just and fair to all people. That enduring faith in our institutions is what truly brings stability to our national life and development as a nation.

You – as corrections officers – will be on the frontlines of building that confidence by adhering to the highest standards of professionalism in enforcing our laws and ensuring the sentences determined by our courts are served. In doing so, you help build a stable Fiji, and from that stability flows all our success as nation: our record economic growth, our ability to educate our children, and the development we’re delivering across the country that is dramatically improving the quality of life for all of our people.

When you serve in your new roles, you will certainly face your fair share of challenges. In our correctional facilities today, we face emerging issues, such as the smuggling of contraband -- that will be your duty to address.

There are lessons you have not yet learned, that can be only taught on the job. And as you gain that practical experience, I encourage you to apply a method of thinking and decision-making that doesn’t always rely on the textbook response. I encourage you to keep yourself educated and aware of new technologies and how they can affect your profession, and how you can use these technologies to create a safer environment, for yourselves and for those in your care. I assure you, my Government will be there to support you by developing new facilities with modern functionalities and ensuring you are well equipped to handle whatever challenges you face in your day-to-day work.

Today I also want to make an important point to our new officers, and to all of those who serve in the ranks of our criminal justice system: the punishments on the books for different crimes in Fiji, are just, fair and carefully considered, and they must be the only punishments that are imposed upon those who violate the laws of our country.

It is a personal commitment of mine, and a commitment I know is shared fully by Commissioner Keane, to ensure that this service adheres to the highest levels of professional conduct and integrity. That is the same expectation I hold for our police officers, our military and every Fijian, in their places of work, in their communities and in their family life. Only then, can we truly call Fiji a society that is safe for all Fijians, where the rule of law is respected and the human rights of all people are upheld at all times.

Because of our progress on this front, Fiji has successfully been elected to the world’s foremost human rights body, the United Nations Human Rights Council. That is as clear a sign as any that this is a new era for the protection of human rights in our country. But we won’t rest on our laurels. There is still work to be done. And as new officers, you are beacons of a new culture, and you must bring with you a new set of expectations for how this service operates for the benefit of the nation.

I trust that all of you will perform well in your duties, and again I congratulate you on your graduation. As I’ve said, my Government is here to support you. We are here to listen to the issues you raise and work with you to keep our corrections service in line with the highest possible standards – but it is up to each one of you to rise to that challenge.

Vinaka vakalevu. Thank you.

© 2018 Ministry of Communications