It is a pleasure to join you this evening to celebrate 150 years of service from Post Fiji. The sheer longevity of this institution speaks to the vital role it plays in the life of the nation.
No business can thrive for 15 decades unless the work that they do matters — and your work most certainly does. To put this remarkable milestone in perspective, I think it’s only right that we start at the beginning –– your beginning.
Post Fiji came to be in 1871 through the passage of the first Postal Act by the then Legislative Assembly. That means this Institution predates the colony of Fiji by three years.
In fact, Post Fiji is just as old as world rugby. Earlier in 1871, England and Scotland met for the first international rugby match ever played anywhere in the world. Several months afterwards, your first office opened in Levuka.
The name of the first recipient of the first letter sent through Post Fiji has been lost to history. But that’s okay. Because this business has never been about one person or one letter. It is about the hundreds of thousands of people and the hundreds of thousands of letters, newspapers, packages and correspondence that have connected Fijians to each other and to the world for a century and a half.
From its early years, this business grew to become our first truly national network; bridging thousands of kilometers of islands and ocean to bring our people together in ways we all now take for granted. Connections like that create possibilities. When people can communicate reliably, they can work together, they can build together, and they can overcome provincial and regional distinctions and strive for something more — something greater that creates a truly national benefit. To put it simply, a more connected Fiji is a more united Fiji and a stronger Fiji, and Post Fiji is a pillar of a connected, strong and united nation.
It’s staggering to consider everything this business has helped Fijians to do. Business dealings. Letters to friends. Money orders to families. Savings bank services.
Gifts to that special someone. News of events at home and around the world that have shaped history –– all of it made possible due to the service of your staff and leadership through the decades. We are one week away from Christmas. Imagine, the thousands of letters of love and goodwill that Post Fiji has transported for 150 Christmases running. Imagine the decades of happiness you’ve helped deliver. That is the legacy you steward. That is the legacy we celebrate tonight.
Today, your branches are open in every town and city in Fiji. And your network of delivery extends to the most rural and maritime regions of the country. Most recently, the nationwide network helped us meet the greatest challenge we’ve faced in 100 years; the COVID-19 pandemic.
At the height of the pandemic, your service volumes were up by 20 percent. As essential personnel, when the nation locked down you flew into action, crossing containment area borders to deliver packages to families who were staying safely at home. And even when their doors were shuttered, entrepreneurs relied on your network to reach their online customers — helping them weather the most difficult economic chapter in our history.
There are countless other stories I could share that show the social, civic, and economic benefits this business has created. But tonight isn’t only about looking back on the past or even dwelling on the present.
It is our charge to look forward, to build on your history and pursue a vision of what this business can become. A vision for the next five decades, the next century, the next 150 years.
To find Post Fiji’s place in the world to come, we must start by recognising how the world is changing. You do not need to run a mail room to realise that the business model of every postal service in the world has been challenged by digital technology. The pandemic has pushed that transformation into overdrive –– sending data usage in Fiji up by 300 percent ––and that trend isn’t stalling or even slowing. It is a fact that Fijians are spending more of their lives online. People are comfortable getting on their computers or pulling out their phones to do business. They are sending messages online. They are buying online. They are selling online. And pandemic or not, they expect to sit down, make an order at home, and have it reliably, affordably and quickly delivered to them. These changing habits mean that service-delivery has taken on a new meaning. It demands that your business meet the consumer in new arenas to ensure that Fijians can access the same quality and innovative postal services as anyone, anywhere in the world.
Post Fiji is adapting alongside these new technologies and consumer habits. Your services have expanded from mail delivery to dispatching money orders, and to bill pay services, as well into retail, office key cutting, and mail management services. Your business has increasingly moved online.
You’ve identified opportunity in the rural and maritime niche market and, thanks to a new range of products, you can nearly do a whole day’s shopping in any one of your stores. That is progress. But the world won’t stop changing and neither can you. Nor can any other business or commercial entity in Fiji.
Since the day our borders closed in March of 2020, we have been steadily planning and preparing for our economic recovery –– a recovery that takes us towards a better, more resilient and more sustainable Fiji. To get there, we must ride these technological waves of change towards the modern, leading island nation that Fiji is becoming. And Post Fiji –– the largest distribution network in the country –– must become the most digitally-savvy delivery service in the Pacific.
We are undergoing this transformation together; as a Government, as businesses, and as a society. This is a 100 percent Fijian Government-owned commercial entity and we will continue to appoint qualified, meritable personnel to lead your Board and supply strategic direction and investment to further your mission. We have history yet to make and we will make it together as partners committed to the mission of connecting the nation through innovative and quality postal services.
To the Post Fiji Board Members, Heads of Departments, and all of your staff –– even from the days when this was the “P & T”, you have my warmest congratulations on your 150-year anniversary. Your vision, commitment and hard work have led us here and they will carry this business forward.
I wish you all and your families a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Enjoy the evening. You have earned it!
Vinaka Vakalevu – Thank you.