I am delighted by the high level of engagement we are now getting from the Fijian people about a new national flag. After a relatively slow start, the national debate on the new designs for the new flag is now in full swing.

We are getting an unprecedented number of responses via our national flag website, through email correspondence and talkback radio. In addition, national flag feedback teams have already returned from Kadavu and certain parts of Lau, are currently in Rotuma and Lomaiviti and will soon be visiting the Yasawas, Mamanucas, Vanua Levu and Taveuni.

The response these teams have been receiving from the Fijian people has been very positive. And the Government recognises that they want more time to consider what form the new flag should take and are seeking more choices than are being offered by the existing 23 designs.

While we had originally set a deadline of today for the first phase of the flag selection process to be completed, the Government has decided to extend the period of consultation. More choices are going to be offered over the next few weeks and months. And the closing date for design consultations will now be 31 December 2015. Cabinet and then Parliament will consider the new flag design when it convenes in 2016.

By extending the deadline, there is now ample opportunity for Fijians of all ages and backgrounds to further contribute and consider what symbols most appropriately represent our wonderful nation. It has taken some time – in the Fijian way – for many people to become fully engaged and I very much welcome the current lively debate on the flag designs.

We will soon be announcing precise details of the revised timetable for consultations. And I appeal to all Fijians who have yet to do so to become involved in the process in a spirit of cooperation, collaboration, goodwill and nationhood.

I appeal to every Fijian to join our quest for a flag that represents who we are today, rather than our past, and that we can fly proudly into the future as we fulfil our vision to become a modern nation state.