Fiji Day Address by H.E. Ratu Epeli Nailatikau

Fiji
Friday, October 10, 2014

MY FELLOW FIJIANS,

ONCE AGAIN, WE ARE ALL CELEBRATING FIJI DAY – 44 YEARS AFTER OUR FLAG WAS FIRST RAISED ON INDEPENDENCE DAY 1970.

OF ALL OUR FIJI DAYS SINCE THEN, THIS IS THE MOST JOYOUS. BECAUSE WE HAVE OPENED A NEW CHAPTER IN OUR NATIONAL LIFE THAT OFFERS GREAT PROMISE FOR EVERY FIJIAN NOW AND INTO THE FUTURE.

I JOIN YOU IN YOUR HOMES TONIGHT TOWARDS THE END OF A MOMENTOUS WEEK IN WHICH HISTORY WAS MADE AND WHICH MANY OF US WILL NEVER FORGET.

ON MONDAY, FIFTY OF OUR MEN AND WOMEN WERE SWORN IN TO REPRESENT YOU IN OUR REFURBISHED PARLIAMENT. AND ON TUESDAY, I HAD THE GREAT HONOUR TO OFFICIALLY LAUNCH OUR NEW DEMOCRACY.

FOR ME, IT WAS AN INSPIRING AND EMOTIONAL DAY, BOTH AS YOUR PRESIDENT AND HEAD OF STATE AND AS AN INDIVIDUAL.  BECAUSE I HAVE LIVED THROUGH MUCH OF THE HISTORY THAT CAME FULL CIRCLE ON TUESDAY.

PARLIAMENT HAS NOW BEEN RETURNED TO THE CHAMBER IN GOVERNMENT BUILDINGS THAT USED TO HOUSE THE LEGISLATIVE COUNCIL IN COLONIAL TIMES.

IN MY YOUTH, I WOULD SOMETIMES GO THERE TO HEAR THE PARLIAMENTARIANS SPEAK – THEY WERE GREAT MEN AND WOMEN WHO HAVE NOW PASSED ON INTO HISTORY, BUT WHO LAID THE FOUNDATION OF OUR NATION AND TO WHOM WE WILL ALWAYS BE GRATEFUL.

THEN, PRECISELY 44 YEARS AGO TODAY, I WAS IN ALBERT PARK AS EQUERRY TO HIS ROYAL HIGHNESS THE PRINCE OF WALES, AS HE HANDED THE CONSTITUTIONAL INSTRUMENTS OF INDEPENDENCE TO OUR FIRST PRIME MINISTER, RATU SIR KAMISESE MARA.

NO-ONE WHO WAS THERE ON THAT SUNNY MORNING ON OCTOBER THE 10TH 1970, WILL EVER FORGET THE EXCITEMENT AND SENSE OF ANTICIPATION AS WE SET OUT TO CHART OUR OWN COURSE.

WE HAD SO MUCH PROMISE AS A NATION AND ALL OF THE ELEMENTS NEEDED FOR SUCCESS. AND YET OUR PROGRESS WAS DRAMATICALLY HALTED 17 YEARS LATER, IN 1987, WHEN WE ENTERED A TURBULENT PHASE OF OUR HISTORY THAT WE ARE ONLY NOW PUTTING FIRMLY BEHIND US.

IT WAS THE BEGINNING OF A CYCLE OF INSTABILITY, DIVISION AND HATRED – FOUR DISRUPTIONS TO PARLIAMENTARY RULE, A REBELLION IN THE MILITARY AND IN 2000, THE DETENTION OF OUR ELECTED REPRESENTATIVES FOR 56 DAYS.

IT IS A SHAMEFUL PERIOD IN OUR HISTORY THAT MUST NEVER BE REPEATED. BUT TO OUR GREAT CREDIT AS A NATION, WE PERSEVERED WITH OUR VISION AND HAVE FINALLY PUT THIS ERA BEHIND US.

THIS WEEK, I HAD THE PRIVILEGE TO WITNESS HISTORY COMING FULL CIRCLE WHEN OUR NEW MEMBERS OF PARLIAMENT GATHERED IN PRECISELY THE SAME PLACE WHERE THE FIRST COUP HAPPENED 27 YEARS AGO. IT WAS A WONDERFUL MOMENT FOR THOSE PRESENT AND FOR THOSE OF YOU WATCHING AND LISTENING AT HOME.

WE HAVE DRAWN A LINE UNDER OUR LOST YEARS AS A NATION. WE HAVE GIVEN OURSELVES A SECOND CHANCE TO BUILD A UNITED FIJI.

AS WE GATHER TOGETHER WITH OUR FAMILIES AND FRIENDS THIS FIJI DAY, LET US COMMIT OURSELVES TO EMBRACING THAT FUTURE. AND TO THANK ALMIGHTY GOD FOR HIS MANY BLESSINGS. BECAUSE WHATEVER OUR INDIVIDUAL RELIGIOUS BELIEFS, IT HAS BEEN A YEAR IN WHICH WE HAVE ALL BEEN TRULY BLESSED.

AS COMMANDER IN CHIEF OF THE RFMF, I SHARED THE PAIN OF THE FAMILIES OF OUR 45 BRAVE UN PEACEKEEPERS, WHO WERE DETAINED FOR TWO WEEKS IN SYRIA. IT WAS AN ANXIOUS TIME FOR OUR NATION AND ESPECIALLY FOR THE FAMILIES AND FRIENDS OF THOSE WHO WERE CAPTURED. BUT GOD ANSWERED OUR PRAYERS, GAVE US HIS COMFORT AND KEPT OUR MEN SAFE. AND NOW THEY ARE BACK DOING THE JOB THEY WERE SENT TO DO, THE NOBLE TASK OF PEACE-KEEPING.

ON THIS FIJI DAY, LET US CELEBRATE THEIR SACRIFICE AND COMMITMENT, ALONG WITH THAT OF ALL OUR OTHER MEN AND WOMEN SERVING THE PEOPLE OF OTHER NATIONS. OUR PEACEKEEPERS AND POLICE OFFICERS NOT ONLY ON THE GOLAN HEIGHTS BUT IN IRAQ,  LIBERIA AND SOUTH SUDAN; THOSE FIJIANS  SERVING IN OTHER ARMED FORCES AROUND THE WORLD; OUR CIVILIAN VOLUNTEERS WORKING IN SCHOOLS, HOSPITALS AND CLINICS IN OUR PACIFIC NEIGHBORS; AND ALL THOSE FIJIANS WORKING IN COUNTRIES FURTHER AFIELD.

THEY MAY BE FAR ACROSS THE SEAS, BUT THEY REMAIN CLOSE TO US IN OUR HEARTS AND WE PRAY FOR THEM, AS WELL AS FOR THEIR FAMILIES HERE IN FIJI.

ON THIS DAY OF ALL DAYS, YOU CAN BE PROUD THAT YOUR LOVED ONE IS PUTTING SERVICE TO OTHERS FIRST. BECAUSE THAT IS THE ESSENCE OF FIJI DAY. A TIME TO PUT ASIDE OUR INDIVIDUAL CONCERNS AND THINK ABOUT OUR NATION AND WHAT IT MEANS TO US ALL.

WORKING TOGETHER, WE HAVE JUST ACHIEVED A GREAT MILESTONE, A CREDIBLE, FREE AND FAIR ELECTION CONDUCTED TO THE HIGHEST INTERNATIONAL STANDARDS. AND NOW THE TASK OF NATION BUILDING PROCEEDS IN EARNEST.

I APPEAL TO YOU ALL TO BE PATRIOTIC, TO HAVE A TRUE SENSE OF PRIDE ABOUT OUR NATION NO MATTER WHAT WE DO OR WHERE WE ARE. WE SHOULD SING OUR NATIONAL ANTHEM WITH PRIDE. WE MUST LOVE OUR COUNTRY, JUST AS WE MUST LOVE EACH OTHER.

I BELIEVE THAT THE SPIRIT OF THE FIJIAN PEOPLE HAS NEVER BEEN STRONGER AND THAT OUR NATION’S GREATEST DAYS LIE AHEAD. ON THIS FIJI DAY, LET US ALL DEDICATE OURSELVES TO OUR NEW DEMOCRACY AND JOIN HANDS TO MAKE IT WORK. WE OWE IT TO OURSELVES, TO HISTORY AND TO GENERATIONS TO COME, TO FINALLY ACHIEVE OUR POTENTIAL AS A NATION. TO MAKE FIJI GREAT.

ON FIJI DAY 2014, MAY GOD BLESS US ALL IN OUR EFFORTS TO BECOME A BETTER NATION. MAY GOD BLESS FIJI.

THANK YOU, VINAKA VAKALEVU, SHUKRIA, BAHOOT DHANYAVAAD.

 

 

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