The High Commissioner;
Ladies and Gentlemen
Bula Vinaka and a very good evening to you all.
I’m delighted to be here in London for the launch of this milestone achievement: Fiji’s first overseas e-Passport Enrolment Kit.
Whether you’re living here in London or in Levuka, the unprecedented strides Fiji is making – at home and overseas – have undoubtedly made it a proud time indeed to be Fijian. This launch today is only our people’s latest unprecedented achievement, as it arrives on the heels of a record-breaking stretch of economic growth, an historic streak of global leadership and an unparalleled array of opportunities made available to every Fijian citizen.
Those of you who have been back to Fiji in recent years can testify that our country is in the throes of momentous change. Not only have we transformed education by making it free and more accessible; not only are we building a vast network of reliable infrastructure; and not only are we expanding the reach of critical services; we’re also bridging the digital divide separating our people from the full benefits of a modern and technologically advanced economy.
Living in the United Kingdom, you all have a front-row seat to how technology can change lives for the better. You live with the convenience of cashless transactions, digital identities and efficient online services. Throughout the late 1990s and early 2000s, while many countries, like the UK, were speeding ahead on the back of these advancements, Fiji remained stuck in the past, with no strategic vision in place to guide our nation forward. But we are changing that narrative, harnessing new technology, along with our record economic growth, to fuel a digital evolution of Fijian society.
We want our people to know the ease and level of opportunity created by digitised services. Whether you’re buying a new handbag at an Oxford Street department store or a new Bula shirt at Jack’s Fiji, we want both purchases to be equally seamless. And we want young Fijians to have an innate understanding of new technology that ensures they enter the workforce standing toe-to-toe with young people educated in Australia, New Zealand, or here in the United Kingdom.
These new e-Passports are only the latest of a range of new developments that are bringing Fiji fully into the 21st century. We’re introducing the life-changing benefits of the digital revolution across our economy, from transportation, to education, to broadcast television, to more affordable and efficient government services.
When I say “e-Passports” I don’t mean our passports are going entirely online. On the surface, these new passports look very similar; we’re still talking about physical passport books printed with covers of beautiful Fiji-blue, but we can’t judge a passport by its cover. The new bio-data page – for example – is a polycarbonate, seven-layer heat pressed page printed with multi-imaging techniques.
These new features allow us to consolidate security requirements at our own borders and ease travel at ports of entry around the globe. They contain a new range of security features that will make it far more difficult for people to enter the country illegally, establishing a more secure Fijian passport, bringing greater integrity to our immigration system. So, we’re not only making Fiji safer, we’re making travelling easier. We’re also setting Fiji up for wider visa-free status access around the world, and I hope to have updates and announcements about this in the future as we continue to actively push nations of the world to allow Fijian travellers to move freely to work, play, and visit their families abroad.
Thanks to industry-leading technology incorporated by Germany’s Mühlbauer ID Services – whose very same security features are found in passports in countries like Australia, New Zealand and the United States – Fijian e-Passport holders will also be protected against forgery, identity theft, and passport tampering and reproduction. With the rollout of our new e-Passports, Fiji officially joins the ranks of 54 other countries from around the globe that have already engrained such technology within their passports.
Given the size of our diaspora community in the UK, we saw our High Commission here in London as a fitting first location for our decentralized passport issuance system. With this facility open at the High Commission, those of you living in the UK and in nearby countries will no longer have to make the journey back to Fiji to obtain or renew a passport. That can now happen right here. In the coming weeks, these same services will be made available across our foreign missions.
Friends, for some of you, it has been years since you last lived in Fiji. For others, it may have even been decades. But as Fijians, you each hold a connection to our country that no length of time nor measure of distance can ever diminish.
Some of you may know, I’m now on Facebook. You can find my profile by visiting facebook-dot-com-slash-FijiPM, or by searching @ FijiPM. And I wanted to thank those of you in the UK who follow my page and share words of encouragement, prayers and well wishes for Fiji’s success – it means a great deal to me personally. I feel truly blessed to lead a nation that continues to inspire such passion in the hearts of diaspora community members.
My friends, next year, we will welcome the 50th Anniversary of Fiji’s Independence, and we’re already hard at work to ensure that occasion is a celebration for the ages. But this won’t just be a one-day occasion; we have a series of events planned that will start in the early part of 2020 and then continue throughout the calendar – events celebrating our history, our future, and our sense of united nationhood – finally culminating in October on the biggest Fiji Day yet. So, make sure you have your passports ready so you can join us next year, as we proudly welcome our first half-century as an independent nation and boldly look forward to the successes the next fifty years hold. I promise it will be well worth the journey.
Vinaka vakalevu. Thank you. God Bless you all.