President of the Republic of Fiji


Port Vila Thursday, 24th October, 2013
VANUATU 7.00p.m.

• The Acting President of the Republic of Vanuatu, Your Excellency Philip
• The former Prime Minister of Vanuatu, Mr Ham Lini;
• Distinguished Guests;
• Ladies and Gentlemen

Bula vinaka and a very good evening to you all.

Thank you, Your Excellency, for welcoming us so warmly.

As President of the Republic of Fiji, it is a great honour for me to be here and to convey the greetings of my fellow Fijians to you our fellow Melanesians, the Ni-Vanuatu, and to reinforce and celebrate what has become a very special and meaningful relationship between our two Nations.

The name Vanuatu is made up of two words we both share in our respective Indigenous languages and which are very specific in Fijian.

The first word "vanua" meaning the land or home. That alone is an indication of the close ties we have with the land and the strong bonds we share as neighbours and as Melanesian brothers and sistas.

The addition of the word "tu" meaning to stand erect completes the name Vanuatu. A name that encapsulates the desire of the Ni-Vanuatu to be independent. To stand tall in our region and in the world.

As you are all aware, we share a common heritage in having been colonized by the British, though in your case, you also had the French resulting in the Anglo-French condominium which created certain - and at times novel – complications of diplomacy. But, Of course, the Anglo-French condominium did have certain advantages which we missed out on in Fiji – notably French Cuisine.

Today we are both sovereign nations, both determined to assert our own Independence and equally determined to work hand in hand to advance the cause of all Melanesians. We have a cause that is inclusive because Melanesia encompasses citizens from  various ethnic backgrounds and with a range of religious and political persuasions.

But there is strength in our diversity and a unity of purpose. We share a vision of a Stronger, more prosperous Melanesia increasingly working together as one, whilst making our presence felt in the world, by having our voice heard and thereby creating fresh opportunities both for ourselves now and for our succeeding generations.

Individually, we have had our achievements as well as our challenges. But by working together, we can accomplish further and greater achievements and to effectively tackle and overcome those challenges.

Indeed, our resolve to work closer together is already yielding great results.

Fiji and Vanuatu have stood shoulder to Shoulder to assert Melanesian interests
In a world that has become more competitive economically, and more dangerous, but a world that also presents more opportunities for advancement than ever before.

We can seize those opportunities if we have the wisdom to understand our interests, the foresight to prepare our societies to take advantage of those opportunities, the firmness to establish the right priorities, and the courage to stand together as Melanesians and demand our rightful place—in world commerce, in global debates, and in guiding the future of our region.

We Melanesians may be dispersed among several nations, but we are one people. We face the same challenges. We live in the midst of an ocean whose rising sea level threatens to engulf our shores.

We want to give our people dignity, opportunity, and good government. We want to be secure from terrorism, environmental degradation and coercion. We have learned that we can solve many of these problems ourselves if we maintain a spirit of sharing and
cooperation, and if we always remember that we are bound together. But let us never forget that we are bound more than just oceanically, with the great peoples of Micronesia and Polynesia.

Vanuatu and Fiji have led the way with our close cooperation on development. We are helping each other on trade and investment, labour mobility, immigration, commerce, taxation, fisheries, transportation, health, environment, security and energy.

Trade between our two countries is brisk and growing, and that is good news for everyone.

Fiji has greatly appreciated the strong role Vanuatu has taken in the Melanesian Spearhead Group and other regional institutions.
You gave critical support that helped to establish the Pacific Islands Development Forum, through which we have been able to assert our own Melanesian interests, insist on our own priorities and defend our own sovereignty — undiluted by the interests of other regional states that sometimes appear to have trouble understanding our history, politics and culture.

Certainly, we need and greatly appreciate the assistance from the more developed Countries. Their assistance can help us make up for the years of underdevelopment and struggle.

But the terms of that assistance must not be dictated. They must come as collaboration,in which we set the priorities, define the agenda, channel assistance through our Institutions and participate as equals every step of the way.

We are already exposing the myth that the best solutions to our problems must come from external sources.

In fact, we increase the value of external assistance by assuming control of our own affairs as much as we can and creating the most favorable climate possible for external assistance to produce tangible results.

Working together, we can increase trade among Melanesian nations and raise the living standards of all our peoples.
Working together, we can share our experiences not only to solve common problems but to help each nation solve our own unique problems.

Working together, we can preserve our Melanesian culture, educate our people, and strengthen our economies.

Of course, we have great challenges before us, but we Fijians are optimistic.

We are enthusiastic about what a Melanesian common market can mean for us all — a larger market, economies of scale, greater opportunities to create employment, and more weight at the negotiating table collectively - more than we can ever have as
individual nations.

A common market will lift all our economies, spur improvements and encourage sharingin our most important industries. Fiji quietly hopes to be a hub for the development of abroadband system that eventually will bring the benefits of the digital age to every Melanesian in every village.

Fiji stands ready – whenever we can – to assist our pacific neighbours, based on the experiences we have had over the past 43 years since independence.

Like any country, we have made mistakes along the way but the important thing is that we have learnt from those mistakes and we can perhaps help others avoid them.

We also strongly believe in the principle of service to others – whether it is our large commitment to United Nations peacekeeping or that of our civilians working in the neighbouring Pacific Island countries.

And I am here principally to thank Vanuatu for standing by us, encouraging us and giving us the confidence to steer the course and achieve our new Constitution which will pave the way for election before October 2014.

Your Excellency and honoured guests, Fijians believe in our great friends, our brothers and sistas, the ni-Vanuatu. We are proud to be your fellow Melanesians.

I would now like to propose a toast to you all.

To the people of Vanuatu, to a strong and growing partnership between Vanuatu and Fiji, and to the future health and prosperity of all Melanesian people.

To friendship and partnership!

Vinaka vakalevu. Thank you.