Na Turaga na Tui Nadi;
The Minister for Education, Hon Rosy Akbar;
Minister for Commerce, Trade, Tourism and Transport,
Hon Faiyaz Koya;
Head of the EU Delegation to Fiji and the Pacific,
His Excellency Ambassador Sujiro Seam;
Your Excellencies, Members of the Diplomatic Corps;
Teachers, School Management and School Children;
Ladies and Gentlemen.
Bula vinaka, As-salaam-wa-alaikum and a very good afternoon to you all.
I hope everyone had a wonderful celebration of our 50th Anniversary of Independence. As you may know, we unveiled a commemorative 50-dollar banknote and a 50-cent coin — the very first coloured coin in Fijian history. We also announced that every student in years 1 to 13 would receive one of those coins. I’m told we have each of your coins here today.
It’s my hope those commemorative coins find a special place in each of your lives –– sitting cherished on bookshelves and kept in pockets as lucky charms during rugby, football, or netball matches or maths tests.
When you receive your coins, you should treasure them and keep them safe –– 50 years on from now, you can be proud to show your own children and grand-children your special piece of our history.
It is a real privilege to have been asked to spend this day with your School community as we officially open this new three-storey classroom building. This is a development your School’s Management has made a reality through their own fundraising, and I congratulate the Fiji Muslim League on this latest demonstration of their commitment to Fiji’s education revolution.
Fiji is one of the few countries in the world where a new school building can be safely opened for its students. In most other places, the global coronavirus pandemic has forced children to learn from home.
But that is not Fiji. We acted quickly and in line with the science to contain this deadly plague and keep our people safe. Now students at Nadi Muslim Primary and all across Fiji, children can attend school without risking anyone’s well-being. Later today, I’ll be thanking our frontlines Healthcare heroes and Disciplined Forces personally for the great sacrifices they have made so the rest of us can have our health.
But even though we are safe from the virus, this pandemic has hit our economy very hard. But even as we endure this difficult period, seeing our students able to study, attend classes, and be with their friends assures us that our future remains bright.
I promise you that hope shall never dim, because you can be certain that no matter how tough things get, my Government’s promise of free education will always be fulfilled. Fijian students deserve that commitment from their Government. But we also know that Government alone can only do so much –– we need partners who share our vision of a knowledge-based Fijian society; a Fiji where all Fijians can realise their dreams through education.
And I know we have such a partner in the Fiji Muslim League, an organisation with a proud record of uplifting Fijians from all faiths and backgrounds, particularly in the arena of education and charitable work.
I have always believed Fiji’s success as a nation will be determined by how tightly we embrace the values of unity and togetherness.
I see the potential of a united Fiji in the eyes of every one of our students. Together, they are bettering themselves and their nation through education. None of them are defined by their background, their religion, or their ethnicity, but by their achievements and their ambition. And upon the foundation of free schooling, equal opportunity, and merit-based recognition, they are stepping forward as members of the most gifted, talented and united generation of Fijians our nation has ever known.
To celebrate the great potential of the young people of this country, this Fiji Day, we asked the students of Fiji to answer a simple question: “What makes Fiji special?”
We had over 700 responses from around the country, including many from here at the Nadi Muslim Primary School, and I thank all of the students who participated, and the teachers who supported their contributions.
One of our submissions came from Year 6 student Afrah Nazim. Afrah, if you are here today, please stand.
In her message, Afrah told us that one of the many reasons Fiji is special because we are free to follow our own religion. She’s right. Thanks to our Fijian Constitution, we are a secular State.
That means that everybody is free to practise their own religion, no religion overshadows another, and Government does not advocate for any specific religion or denomination, but instead upholds the right of every Fijian to practise their faith without fear of discrimination or marginalisation. So, for example, if Government hosts a function or Government Ministry or Department holds a meeting and a prayer is given, that prayer must be applicable for all faiths, or each faith must be given the opportunity to offer a prayer of their own.
Afrah also told us that regardless of our differences, Fijians support each other through good and bad times alike. And, in the words of our national anthem, we stand united under noble banner blue, the land of freedom, hope and glory.
Again, she was spot-on. When Fijians stand united, when we support one another, we are at our very best. Despite our differences, we all sing the same anthem, we all wave the same flag, and we all want the same great things for our country. Together, there is nothing we cannot achieve.
Thank you to Afrah and all of this School’s teachers, students and management for having me here to celebrate this wonderful development you have built for yourselves. I now have great pleasure in declaring this new classroom block open at the Nadi Muslim Primary School.
Vinaka vakalevu. Thank you.