Bula Vinaka and a very good morning to you all.
It’s wonderful to be back in the North as we continue to steadily bridge the gap of service-delivery between our Northern communities and the towns and cities of Viti Levu.
Starting today in Bua we’re officially opening a new, nearly 180,000-dollar Provincial Council Staff Quarters. Over the next few days across your beautiful division, we’ll be commissioning new engines of economic development, empowering hard-working women, and harnessing nature in our campaign to build climate resilience.
But before I kick off my Northern Tour, I want to thank Fijians in our Northern Division, especially those living in the Soasoa settlement, for their patience and cooperation through our containment of the deadly coronavirus.
As you likely know, Fiji has ended our COVID-19 outbreak, and we have recorded no news cases in over 70 days. Our victory in keeping our people safe from this virus is shared by the doctors, nurses and disciplined forces who have spent countless hours in defence of their fellow citizens, and it is shared by the ordinary Fijians across this division who took our directives seriously and adopted the good habits that stop this virus from spreading.
Because of our success, our students are preparing to return to school, our curfew has been shortened from 11pm to 4am every day, and we can hold gatherings of up to 100 people. In line with that directive – houses of worship can safely welcome back worshippers, rugby and other sports can be played again, most businesses can reopen, and we’ve introduced a range of other initiatives to recover the Fijian economy over the long-term. But the scale back of certain restrictions demands new levels of responsibility from every Fijian, and sanitary practices, like good handwashing, wearing masks when we’re sick, and maintaining a safe physical distance as much as possible, all still apply.
I believe that investments made in the physical security and comfort of our frontline officials are direct investments in the wellbeing of the citizens they serve. By ensuring we properly resource provincial offices with clean, safe and comfortable living quarters, we allow our officials to focus fully on their duties to the Fijian people, and we attract talented women and men to these positions over the long-term, especially across our more rural frontiers.
I understand these new quarters were requested by officials in the area, and I’m proud to see this promise delivered. But these new quarters also come with new expectations, and I expect to see an immediate step-up in the level of services provided by the officers of the Bua Provincial Council.
Fijian in communities across Bua count on the officials stationed at this office to help them tap the vast potential that lies in their land, harness their willingness to work hard for achievable rewards, and lead this province into a new era of development.
Every official serving this province must become stronger advocates for the vast opportunities my government has made available to the Fijian people, including our landowning communities. These opportunities are only made possible through our Fijian Constitution, which establishes, for the first time ever, permanent and unwavering protections of iTaukei land ownership. No exceptions and no excuses.
So, in celebrating these new quarters, I ask you not let this investment go to waste. Every extra hour of quality sleep you gain in these new quarters should be matched by an extra measure of service to our people; because as your wellbeing improves, so must the wellbeing of every Fijian you are entrusted to empower.
Vinaka vakalevu. Thank you.