The Mayor of Lormont,
The Management of the Fiji Water Flying Fijian rugby team,
Invited Guests, Fellow Fijians,
Friends of Fiji,
Miau sa bula si’a, Bula vinaka and a very good afternoon to you all.
I am delighted and honoured to join you today, in this magnificent region of Europe, in this splendid country of France, in this charming city of Bordeaux, and especially in this lovely suburb of Lormont.
I am here to celebrate with you the Independence Day of Fiji, a momentous occasion that marks almost 53 years of our nation’s sovereignty and dignity. As we commemorate this historic day, I would like to reflect on our journey as a nation, from the 10th of October 1970, when Fiji became an independent state, to the present day.
I was a young child when Fiji gained its independence – Yes, I am still young. But I remember the aspirations that our parents had for Fiji. They envisioned a Fiji that is strong and resilient, that valued unity and equality in diversity that embraced the world with openness and curiosity, despite its geographical isolation.
They dreamed of a Fiji that is inclusive and respectful of difference. A prosperous and progressive Fiji that offered economic opportunities and social justice to all its citizens. We have travelled a long way since 1970. Our path has not always been smooth or peaceful, but we have learned from our mistakes and challenges.
We have realized that we cannot build a future on the foundations of inequality, greed, or opportunism. We have discovered that we can only build a future on the pillars of inclusive policies and social cohesion.
Not by erecting walls to exclude others, but by constructing bridges to welcome them. Not by silencing dissent and disagreement, but by creating spaces to appreciate diversity. We must continue to uphold the values that define us as a nation.
Respect for the rule of law and democratic processes, the principles of transparency and accountability, respect for human rights and freedoms, and we must continue to listen to the voices of the people through genuine consultation.
We must continue to pursue our economic development in a sustainable manner, with the ultimate goal of improving the well-being of all the people of Fiji and protecting our environment.
And we have learnt also with the outrageous sense of humour that all Fijians share, that friendship and understanding that can heal many wounds. As we look back on Fiji’s history, we should be proud. We honour the struggles of those who came to Fiji as indentured labourers and those who were blackbirded, we acknowledge the contributions of the settlers from across Europe and Asia and other parts of the world.
We recognize that together in unity, we have all played a role in shaping Fiji. We must also remember the services of our great statesmen and leaders of the past. We salute the men and women who have served our country in government, in the disciplined services, our peacekeepers, in the business sector, in the community and on the sporting field. Today is a day to think of the sacrifices and dedication that our people make every day.
Today, we stand proud as Fijians. We look forward to our future, a future that will be led by our children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. We pray that God will protect them. It is my hope and prayer that we will continue to work together for the betterment of our nation, in cooperation and harmony. It has been my privilege today to be here with you all and inaugurate our Fiji Day celebrations for Europe.
I pray that Almighty God will bless us all, bless our Boys and all players playing in the World Cup, their preparations, their safety and our safety. May God Bless Fiji!