sa bula vinaka,
And warm greetings to you all.
It is my honour to once again speak directly to you, the Fijian people, as families across our nation come together this Fiji Day to celebrate 49 proud years of our nation’s independence.
I have had the privilege of delivering this message for the past four years, and with each passing Fiji Day, it brings me great joy to think that more and more Fijians have access to free-to-air television and reliable data –– meaning more and more Fijians are gathered around their televisions, or watching on their mobile devices, in communities far and wide. Since the last time I gave this address, I have been blessed to be given the opportunity to serve another term as your President.
For this, I offer you my sincere and humble gratitude, and I look forward to continuing to represent you with integrity and passion as Fiji’s Head of State. Much has been accomplished since our last Fiji Day, in what has been a particularly momentous year for our nation.
We have carried out our second national elections, cementing a democratic future where one person equals one vote. And in this election, we saw more women Parliamentarians elected than ever before –– a big step in the right direction for achieving equality, and one that will inspire a new generation of little girls all across Fiji to dream of holding public office and serving their country.
We have hosted leaders from around the world on our shores for historic occasions, from welcoming Royals from the United Kingdom (UK) and Norway, to hosting the United Nations (UN) Secretary-General, to hosting Fiji’s largest-ever international conference, the Asia Development Bank (ADB) Annual Meeting.
In the words of our Honourable Prime Minister, this has opened a new chapter for Fiji –– one where the Pacific is not overlooked when it comes to hosting large-scale events due to a lack of hosting capacity, and rather than us needing to go out to the world to tell the story of the Pacific, the world can finally come to us to see it for themselves.
We have witnessed a rapid expansion of our digital government transformation. In just over a year, this bold step into the future has already streamlined public transportation, brought a number of government services to the fingertips of Fijians through their phones and computers, increased connectivity with free public wi-fi hotspots, and given the nation access to Walesi freeto- air television.
It is clear that the Fiji of today is more modern, efficient, and competitive in the global marketplace, for the benefit of both our people and our growing economy. But what is perhaps most exciting is the fact that what you have seen so far –– while already remarkable –– represents just a small taste of the many benefits of digitalisation that Fijians will gain through this transformation in the months and years ahead. We have continued to fight for ambitious action by the international community to combat climate change, bringing the perspective of small island states to the forefront of conversations on the global stage.
And this year’s Fiji Day theme, “A Progressive and Sustainable Fiji for All”, takes that mission to heart –– something that gives me great hope, as, in the words of the UN Secretary-General, this battle for our lives is far from won. But perhaps the greatest mark of progress becomes clear simply by looking around you as you go about your day-to-day lives. From handsome new storefronts in Suva to new streetlights lighting up communities along the King’s Road, from newly-paved roads and bridges to upgraded airports and jetties, from handsome new roadside stalls to flourishing markets and grocery stores,the past year has represented change we can see.
My friends and Fellow Fijians, what we are truly building is far bigger –– together, we are building a nation. And on this 49th Fiji Day, that is certainly worth celebrating. As we look to the year ahead, we will be planning the biggest Fiji Day celebration yet for 2020, when we will mark half a century of independence. With our sights on 50 years, I look forward to seeing yet another year of growth, of patriotism, of unity, and of nation-building.
With that, my wife, Sarote, joins me in wishing each of you a happy Fiji Day, from our family to yours.
May Almighty God bless every Fijian man, woman and child as we embark on the year ahead.
Vinaka vakalevu, Dhanyavaad and Thank you.