• The Honourable Prime Minister, and Mrs Mary Bainimarama,
• Honourable Members of the Judiciary,
• Honourable Cabinet Ministers,
• The Honourable Leader of the Opposition,
• Honourable Members of Parliament,
• Your Excellencies, Members of the Diplomatic Corps,
• Chiefs and Community Leaders,
• Leaders of Faith Based Organisations,
• Distinguished Guests,
• Ladies and Gentlemen, our youths, our teachers and our school children.

Ni sa bula vinaka, namaste, asalaam alaykum, ni hao, kona mauri, talofa, noa’ia‘e mauri, and a very good morning to you all.

It is a great pleasure to be here with you all today, on this joyous Constitution Day, as we gather to recognise the binding document upon which our very democracy, and our beloved nation, is built.

As we come together here in Labasa, we mark a very special Constitution Day indeed: this is the first time that the official festivities have been held in the Northern Division.

Thank you all for your attendance in great numbers today, for it signifies the beginning of a successful day of celebrations. I can tell by the thousands of smiles, by the patriotic outfits you all are proudly wearing, and by the positive energy felt in the air this morning, that those of you in attendance, especially those young students who have travelled from across Vanua Levu to be here, will remember this extraordinary occasion for the rest of your lives.

The fact that so many Fijians, including the highest echelons of Government and the Diplomatic Corps, have made the journey to the North to be with you all today is proof of the commitment that all of us share in uniting our beloved nation as one Fijian family.
All throughout Fiji, our brothers and sisters are joining us in marking the day’s celebrations, many of whom are watching right now as the festivities are broadcast live through FBC on our Walesi platform to every corner of our great nation.

National holidays are reserved to commemorate, celebrate and pay respect for the most important and sacred issues and entities that our nation holds dear, and this certainly applies to our Constitution.

I realise that when you are thinking of a document, a celebration may not be appropriate according to your natural instinct; without considering its proper context, you may find it hard to perceive and regard the Constitution as important or exciting. In fact, all too often, it is something that we take for granted. But as patriotic Fijians and good citizens we should refer to this Document as a good thing; it is the sign of a strong Constitution that we should accept and be comfortable with, but, often we tend to forget that it is even there. That is why we have Constitution Day in the first place –– to take a moment to reflect on the immense intent and value of our Constitution, and to show appreciation for the rights that it affords and grants to all Fijians.

One of those Constitutionally-enshrined rights, the fundamental right to education, is the very reason that we are graced with the presence of hundreds of students here today. I must acknowledge and say, it is such a joy to see so many young faces here today, with their patriotism and Fijian spirit and pride on full display.

I want everyone in the audience to take a look around ––look at your classmates sitting next to you, and look a bit further to the hundreds of students from other schools, your parents, relatives and friends who fill the stands that surround us. While you might see everyone here today as just a group of school children, but from my perspective, I see something else. Indeed, when I see you all today here, celebrating our great Constitution, I see the future of Fiji.

After my remarks, you will hear from three bright young Fijians who will tell us their personal stories about how the Constitution has benefitted their lives and helped their families. I urge you to pay special attention to these moving testimonials; above all else, they show us the very real-world impact of the Constitution on Fijian lives. And while we will hear three stories today, you can be assured that for each story of a family benefiting from the Constitution, there are hundreds of thousands more all throughout every square kilometre of Fiji –– every town and city, every rural and maritime community, every school, health centre, and every place of worship.

Our young people today will be the first in Fijian history to spend all, or nearly all, of their entire lives under the care of our Constitution, and this is truly a blessing that brings great happiness to those of a different generation.

I am confident and can proudly state that the bright, shining future that lies ahead for students and our youth of today is a point of enormous pride for parents and grandparents who have lived through a time in Fiji without the protections and provisions of our current framework.

The Fijian Constitution is the guiding light that drives all of Government’s actions and deeds. It is the blueprint by which all progress is achieved. It guarantees each of us with rights and equality, and ensures that our nation is always moving forward, and never reverting to the past.

Our Constitution has made Fiji a fairer and more inclusive society –– a society where Fijians are not seen through a lens of ethnicity or provincialism; not through a lens of social economic status or disability or ability. Indeed, the beauty of our Constitution is that it is blind to your background. It grants us the right to education, to healthcare, to equal justice. It grants us the right to clean water and decent housing. It grants these basic rights and more to all; an inclusive doctrine that levels the playing field for all of our people, and binds/bands us together as one Fijian family.

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, our Constitution is strong, it is enduring, and it is uniting. In fact, it is this new and unprecedented strength that has ushered in a new era of social, economical and political stability for our country. From this political stability comes confidence in our nation, both among our own people and from the international community –– confidence that, when paired with this Government’s prudent policymaking and leadership, has supported the nine straight years of economic growth that is being enjoyed by every Fijian family today.

While this prosperity is evident all throughout Fiji, its impact is certainly felt today among those of you living in the Northern Division, where the buzz of new construction and development is a near-constant sight. It has already resulted in rapid development throughout Vanua Levu, with new businesses, infrastructure, and Government services developing and improving faster than what was once thought possible.

And this is just the beginning –– from the planned bypass road to the new Fiji National University campus, to the new submarine cable project that will provide access to high-speed internet services to all of Vanua Levu, it is clear that the best days for Vanua Levu are to come. Make no mistake: it is no coincidence that all of this has happened within the five years since our Constitution was promulgated. A strong Constitution, harnessed by the visionary leadership of a responsible Government, has brought us to where we are today.

My fellow Fijians, I would like to voice my sincere appreciation for my reappointment as President, which took place just last week. I feel truly humbled to be blessed with this honour, and I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge and thank the Honourable Prime Minister and his Government for its faith in me.

To you my fellow Fijians, I am confident that with Almighty God’s blessings and guidance, I will continue to serve our beloved nation well. I will continue to strive to represent Fiji with the health and well-being of every Fijian in my heart. This is the first official event to take place since my reappointment, and I cannot think of a more fitting occasion; it is our Constitution which lays the foundation for my position as Head of State, and it is our Constitution which outlines the responsibilities and terms of my role.

But the framework that it provides for the presidency is just one small part of a much, much larger machine that runs our country. And for that machine to run properly, it must be fuelled by its people, the lifeblood of any true democracy. That is why I encourage all Fijians to exercise their most important right of all: the right to vote in the upcoming elections. For those of you who are not yet 18, you should go home and take these lessons to your parents.

Our young people can still actively participate in our democracy by staying focused and informed, by reading the news, watching Parliamentary debates, and continuing to study the Constitution. Because you will not only go on to become future voters, you will be the community and political leaders who fill the ballots and carry the baton of progress into tomorrow. By making your voices heard, by participating in the electoral process, you are exercising a privilege that many in the world are not so fortunate to enjoy. By voting, you are playing your part in making sure the concrete settles as we pave the road to a generation of Fijian greatness.

Happy Constitution Day to you all, and may Almighty God bless our beloved Fiji.

Vinaka vakalevu, dhanyavaad, sukria, xièxiè, ko bati nraba, fa’afetai, ma’alo lelei, fai’eksia and thank you.