Thank you all for the warm welcome.
I’m happy to be in Tamusua Village today, where we’re unveiling two projects that will uplift the lives of Fijians living in the Tikina of Yasawa-i-Rara-i-Yata.
First, we’re opening the new Tamusua Nursing Station, a $300,000-dollar project that will have an immediate impact on the health of the communities it serves –– some 258 people from the villages of Tamusua, Nabukeru, Navutoa, and the children of the nearby Primary School.
Gone are the days when you had to travel over half an hour by boat, one way, to seek basic medical care in Teci. The time and expense of getting there posed a difficult decision for your people – any time you felt unwell, you were left wondering if the situation was truly dire enough to make that journey. That’s a dilemma that no Fijian should be faced with, and it resulted in too many in your communities putting off care for too long.
Now, with a facility to call your own, any discouragement or delay that you previously experienced is in the past. You have the convenience of a nursing station that will provide services and health monitoring with ease –so don’t let it go to waste.
Take advantage of this newfound access by taking ownership over your health and wellbeing. Use this new station as an opportunity to change the way you think about healthcare. As Fijians, you all have every right to tap into my government’s universal health coverage – coverage that is granted to all Fijians, not just those living in our towns and cities.
Healthcare isn’t a luxury, it is a right. But to exercise that right, I ask that you be proactive, and utilize this new nursing station at your doorsteps. Monitor your conditions regularly, and check in on your family members, friends and neighbours. But your own health should be your number one priority – only by first taking care of yourselves can you take care of your community and the ones you love.
And while we have undoubtedly raised the standard of living in Tamusua with this project, we are also celebrating the livelihoods that will be lifted by another new investment in your communities – a newly-installed solar freezer.
For generations, your Tikina has relied on the bounty of the sea to not only feed your families, but generate income that has allowed your community to tap into its economic potential.
While fishing is a way of life in many of Fiji’s coastal communities, those Fijians living in our most remote maritime areas – like Yasawa – have historically faced a disadvantage. A lack of cold storage units and ice plants has made it difficult for you to keep your catch fresh for longer periods of time, meaning that too often, you saw your hard work go to waste.
But thanks to the Ministry of Fisheries, we have found a way to solve that longstanding problem in Tamasua – and in maritime communities all throughout Fiji –– with solar freezer units like the one we’re celebrating today.
The villages of Tikina Nacula –– Nacula, Malakati, and Matacawalevu – immediately saw the value of this investment when it was proposed, and each pitched in a share of the total cost to make it happen. Knowing that you were invested in yourselves and your future, my government was proud to make up the difference, and I am humbled to see how grateful you are for this new solar freezer today. While investments like this may seem small to some, when I speak with the fishers of Yasawa, I know what a very big – and even life-changing – impact this will make on your community.
Before I finish – and while I have all of your attention – I want to take this chance to talk to you about COVID-19, and how it is affecting all of Fiji. Even though it’s been over 60 days since we saw our last case of the virus, the economic fallout that we’ve experienced from the blow to our tourism industry has been felt far and wide – including right here in Tamusua. Many of you make your living by working at nearby hotels and selling seafood and handicrafts to local tourists. With that revenue dried up, the pain can be felt by your families, too. Please, take comfort knowing that my government is working diligently to bring back that valuable economic activity, here and all throughout Fiji, in a way that is safe and healthy for Fijians and our visitors alike. I’ll be announcing more on this in the coming days, including on when schools and other venues will reopen. In the meantime, know that your government is here for you, especially in these uncertain times.
In the meantime, my friends, today still marks an exciting new beginning in Tamusua. By taking advantage of these new tools at your feet, your communities will be healthier and more prosperous in the years ahead. I look forward to returning again someday to check in on your progress, so please –make me proud!
Vinaka vakalevu, and God bless.