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FIJI NATIONAL DAY 

 

Speech by H. E. Beniamino, (Ben), Salacakau High Commissioner for the Republic of Fiji in South Africa
 
16 October 2014
 
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Salutations: The Director-General of the Department of Human Settlements, Mr Thabane Zulu., The Dean of Diplomatic Corp, Ambassador Bene M’Poko, the Dean of the Asia Group, Dean of Grulac, Ambassador of Agentina, Dean of Europe, Ambassador of Romania, Colleagues of the Diplomatic Community, Your Excellencies High Commissioners and Ambassadors, The Madams of the International Diplomatic Spouses Association, Friends from the business Community, Friends of Fiji and the Fijian Diaspora, Ladies and gentlemen….On behalf of my wife, Tarai, staff and the small Fijian community here in South Africa I say, Bula vinaka to you all.  Bula is Fijian for life and vinaka means good. So in wishing you Bula vinaka I am effectively wishing you all Good Life. And thank you all so sincerely for coming to celebrate this day with us.

Let me from the outset ask your indulgence as far as my speech is concerned. In a desire to be short and crisp my speech has undergone many editions and deletions. Finally I decided I will go through with it as I could not go below the 18 pages. It is not everyday I have such a distinguished audience. So friends, colleagues indulge me with your patience.  

Fiji established diplomatic relations with South Africa in 1994, immediately after Apartheid ended. However it was not until 2007 that South Africa opened its embassy in Fiji. Fiji reciprocated in 2011. It is still the only mission of the Republic of Fiji in the African continent. The mission has also come to be the mission for the Pacific as we often have to serve the needs of other Pacific Islanders. The twenty years of democracy is also 20 years of Diplomatic relations. We have strong people to people relations and enjoy our regular contests in sports.
Director-General of the Department of Human Settlements, Mr Thabane Zulu, Trade and travel between our two countries is small. However we think with the right political climate it will grow. For the moment we are grateful for your accommodation, friendship, protection and promises of support. We also enjoy the diversity, adventure and beauty of your country. Fiji watches your passage to democracy and freedom with interest. We can take a leaf or two from the successes and victories you have achieved in your first 20 years of freedom, and, we congratulate and applaud you generously and extend Fiji’s well wishes on your journey ahead.

 Fiji was ceded to Great Britain in 1874. Apparently the American Consul had charged the then Chief of Fiji, for the burning down of his residence blaming it on the Fijians. So Fiji was for sale to pay off the debt. Britain agreed to settle the debt and so we became British. However, know another story and it is that the Americans burnt the residence of their consul due to the fireworks from their Independence day celebrations. Fiji then gained independence in 1970. These significant events happened on October 10th, the cession to Britain and independence. Today Fiji celebrates its 44th anniversary. However in those 44 years almost 20 years have been under various interim governments due to a series of military coups, the first of which was in 1987.  
Today’s event is given more significance because Fiji has just completed its general elections. This has come after 8 years of interim rule after a coup in 2006. Fiji is really celebrating because quite simply the people are fed up of coups be it military or otherwise. We have lost a lot of ground due to those unfortunate events.

Fiji has been rewriting its constitution. We are now more focused on being a truly democratic country. Our elections was one where for the first time there was only one line for voters and not separate lines based on ethnicity. Fiji has 55% indigenous, 40% of Indian descent and the rest, Europeans, Chinese and others.
As celebrations in Fiji had happened earlier today the President in his address said and I quote, “TODAY is a very special day for Fiji. Today we celebrate our independence from Great Britain.

In a way, today is extra special as we take our first few steps in the general direction of democratic governance, “ End of quote.
Speaking last week in a budget preparations workshop, Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama, said and I quote, “
We have so much going for us; our glorious natural surroundings; our wonderful people; our central position as a hub in the Pacific; an eager and talented workforce destined to become even smarter because of our investment in education; the many reforms we have made to transform Fiji into a modern nation-state; and on top of all of this, our transition to a genuine democracy, not the pale imitation we had before. All this means that Fiji has never stood taller or had so much potential.

The Government is very focused on laying the foundations for better times ahead. Education is now free up to University. The free busfare scheme ensures that all children can get to schools daily with almost a 100% enrolment and a completion rate of 12 years of education well over 75%. There is a lot of support for post secondary education. The Education system and curriculum is being reviewed to ensure relevance of the curriculum and a focused and committed teaching force.

Fiji has been playing its role in international affairs and punching above its weight. Recently it was the chair of G77 plus China and sits on a number of international bodies. It has been prominent in peacekeeping for many years and continues to stand ready to lend its hand in regional and international affairs.
Fiji is considered so far away. But the world is shrinking. I am often surprised by the number of people who have been to Fiji. Within the Pacific, Fiji is considered something of a leader. Fijians are a very diverse people. In the Pacific there are principally 3 different major ethnic groups apart from the newer immigrants, all having come from different directions. The Polynesians come from the East. Legend has it that they came from South America. This theory of migration was tested by the Swede, Thor Heyerdahl in his raft, the Kon Tiki. Polynesians are brown skinned like the Maoris, Cook Islanders, Tongans, Samoans etc. They are big and well built. These are now the mainstay of the New Zealand All Blacks. There are the Micronesians that came from the north. Legend has it that they migrated out of Malaysia and the Asian mainland. These are more dark skinned, straight hair and slightly shorter in stature. Then there are the Melanesians who are more Negroid. These are the more African looking Fijians. Legend has it that they were the first people to settle in Fiji and came from Africa. Fiji sits in an area where all these regional ethnic groups merge. It is a kind of melting pot. That is why Fijians are quite diverse . To this day people are still melting into Fiji as the search for somewhere quiet, safe, peaceful and beautiful continues.

Our economy had continued to grow in the last few years albeit a little. There are many challenges in terms of size, distance and competition. However we have some unique features that will spur on our economy. There is a lot of modernisation going on in key industries and a constant search for newer ones. This year there is a projection to grow close to 5%. In view of the challenges, that is significant. There has never been as much confidence in our capacity and determination to progress to better times ahead.

In closing, I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of you, Diplomats, High Commissioners and Government representatives present here for the support rendered to Fiji in various quarters and undertakings.

We again thank our host South Africa for the accommodation of our many wishes and desires from time to time. I thank you again Director-General of the Department of Human Settlements, Mr Thabane Zulu, for the honour you accord us with your presence. Excellences, Ambassadors, High Commissioners, Madams and Gentleman of the Spouses Association, our business friends thank you for gracing our celebrations today. To my countrymen and women of the small Fiji community and our staff here at the embassy for all your contributions, presence and good will thank you most sincerely from the bottom of my heart.  I am sure that the smile on Tarai’s face will say it all. We are indeed touched by your friendliness and presence here today and I hope that you too are touched by this humble celebration.       
             
I hope your glasses are charged…Please join me in a toast…… To the health of His Excellency President Jacob Zuma and the wealth and welfare of the people of South Africa. Cheers!
 
High Commission of Fiji in South Africa
 


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
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February/March 2020

 
 
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