The Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China in Fiji, His Excellency Qian Bo and Madame Lu Qi;
The President of the Chinese Association of Fiji and Chair of the Organising Committee, Ms Jenny Seeto;
Committee Leaders of the Chinese Community;
Ladies and Gentlemen;
Bula Vinaka and a very good morning to you all.
As I join you this morning, my thoughts are with Fijians in our Northern and Eastern divisions who have borne the brunt of Tropical Cyclone Tino throughout the weekend. Our disaster authorities are on the ground in impacted communities working overtime to re-open access to flooded regions and restore critical services to affected Fijians.
After this event, I will return to leading our national response to TC Tino. In the meantime, I’d like to take this chance to again urge all Fijians to remain vigilant until waters have subsided and, please, and stay away from flooded areas.
I am happy to be able to join each of you – the members of our Fijian-Chinese community – for this celebration of the Chinese New Year.
This year, Chinese communities around the world are ushering in the Year of the Rat. There are many competing versions of the origin story of the Chinese zodiac cycle.
But throughout the different tellings, one thing is constant; in the great race arranged by the Jade Emperor, it was not the rat’s size or speed that propelled him ahead of the pack, but rather his shrewdness. Owed to his quick-thinking, the year of the Rat marks the start of the Chinese New Year cycle.
There is a refreshing quality about marking the beginning of a new era. It first offers a chance for reflection; a chance to celebrate achievement and consider the lessons of history. Twelve years ago, at the start of the last zodiac cycle, Fiji was – in many ways – a vastly different country.
Fijian children did not know the life-changing opportunities borne from free education. Our economy had yet to secure the historic streak of expansion or level of stability we have today. Systems of birthright and patriarchal privilege reigned supreme over the proven might of merit-based recognition.
Our people did not know the common and equal citizenry they now share. And our Constitution – and the vast array of rights it enshrines – was yet to be promulgated.
These great Fijian victories have been victories for every member of the Fijian-Chinese community, the same as any of your fellow Fijians. And it is only by working together, by standing united as one nation and one people, that we can write new chapters in the story of Fijian progress through the years ahead.
Friends, the start of a new year also gives us the chance to look forward, and dream boldly about what the future holds. For Fiji, this year marks more than the start of a new decade or even a new cycle on the zodiac calendar, as 2020 marks the 50th year anniversary of our Independence –– what will prove to be the beginning of the next great era of our nation’s history.
There is a great deal I could say this morning about our anniversary celebrations and the greatness that awaits the Fijian people in the decades to come. But stepping forward into that new era begins with our efforts today and throughout next week to get affected Fijians back on their feet as we recover from Tropical Cyclone Tino.
For now, I wish you all a safe and blessed Year of the Rat.
Vinaka vakalevu. Thank you.