PARLIAMENT OF REPUBLIC OF FIJI
MONDAY, MARCH 20, 2017
Madam Speaker, I rise before you today as a proud resident and Member of Parliament from the Friendly North to represent the people of the Fiji.
It is an absolute honour and privilege indeed to be here in this capacity. Let me start by thanking God because of whom we are here today. With him on our side, we can do the impossible. Thank God for his presence today.
At the outset, I thank the National Federation Party for having confidence in me to serve as a Member of Parliament for the remainder of the term of this Parliament. I realize my current parliamentary term will be short with general elections scheduled next year.
However, Madam Speaker, I will certainly try to do justice to my role as a Member of Parliament in accordance with the normal parliamentary norms and rules of this august Chamber, as well as in conformity to the principles and policies of our Party that has been in existence for the last 54 years.
I also wish to put on record my thanks and appreciation for the work done by our former President in this Parliament,
Roko Tupou Draunidalo. She discharged her parliamentary duties fearlessly and effectively until her suspension, considered to be harsh and unreasonable by even the Inter Parliamentary Union.
Madam Speaker, I aim to live up to the trust the electorate has placed in me, and to the high standards set by my predecessors. They have been members who served Fiji with great distinction and admiration. Their service to this nation will indeed be big shoes to fill but I am very optimistic of the fact that where there is a will, there is always a way to move forward together, as a nation, not divided but united for the common good of our beloved Fiji. Our national anthem has these words and I quote, “as we stand united under noble banner blue.” Therefore, I am certain with the grace of God, support of my fellow parliamentarians and blessings from loved ones, this will undoubtedly be an exciting and rewarding journey.
Albert Einstein said, “The value of a man should be seen in what he gives and not in what he is able to receive.” Now let me add my own words to it. The value of a man should be seen in what he does and not only what he says.
Madam Speaker, with an opportunity to serve and make a difference in the lives of people, I find these values highly relevant. My passion to serve this country will be an important factor in the success of my journey as a member of this august House.
I have followed in the footsteps of my late father Mr Vishnu Prasad, a farmer school teacher and an entrepreneur of a successful bus business who then sought to become a politician. As a businessman and cane grower myself, I have adopted my father’s principles in trying to be of help to the disadvantaged people in his life. Dad’s message to me has always been “you can’t change the world but you can certainly make a difference in someone’s life”.
With this dream soundly embedded in my mind, and values enshrined in my upbringing, I am ready to be an integral part of a vision, a vision of dynamic Fiji where everyone has a chance to make a choice, have a choice and enjoy this choice, where no one is left behind and where there is true compassion, where a mentality of one team one dream prevails and where not as individuals but collectively we become ultimate champions.
Our fathers and forefathers have left a legacy of mutual trust, cooperation, compassion and a multitude of nation building techniques.
Madam Speaker let us use this as a foundation to build on.
My passion for a visionary Fiji, is to develop a visionary strategic plan, Vision 2030, as very articulately stated by our Honourable Leader three years ago.
We should be inclusive in our approach as we develop this plan. We should consider to invite wide-ranging community inputs, including international assistance if need be, establish a time frame, as we forge ahead with this visionary plan.
An integral part of the vision would be to develop an achievable goal –
A goal that will define Fiji, a goal that will represent Fiji, and a goal that will be embraced and enjoyed by Fiji
Above all, a goal that will be the face of Fiji
Madam Speaker, we are a great and blessed nation. Our tropical climate, rivers, deltas, valleys and fertile land are our great assets.
Our greatest strength are the people of our multicultural, multiethnic and multi-religious nation.
We need to harness our resources effectively and fully utilize these strengths. We need to focus and entrust our valued resources in this endeavour. We need to strive and I believe as we strive together, the sky is the limit.
Madam Speaker, sustainability and maintenance of family values are great virtues of our diverse cultures and traditions. It is the wish of all parents and guardians to successfully nurture their children and settle them well in their lives. It is therefore extremely important that all our people are empowered so that they have an opportunity to attain knowledge, fortitude and strength to establish a successful livelihood for them and their families.
As leaders and legislators, we should always aspire to facilitate an environment in order for our people to achieve this because this is what national interest is about.
Madam Speaker, what I stand for and my passion can be defined as follows:
- Freedom of speech and the media, vibrant democracy and respect for human rights
- Economic growth driven by: –
- Promotion of small businesses
- Revival of the Sugar Industry
- Roads and Infrastructure development
- Electricity grid extension to rural & cane belt areas
- More sealed roads
- More cross – country roads to open up land and reduce traveling time
- Clean and continuous Water Supply
- Decent Employment Opportunities
Our vision for Fiji will revolve around these key attributes.
Madam Speaker, I will focus on some of the objectives that I just alluded to, including their importance to Vanua Levu: –
The right to free speech is one of the most basic yet precious right of any person. Freedom of speech is important for a vibrant democracy as it enables a free flow of information and ideas from the public in making informed decisions. By giving people the opportunity to express themselves and speak their mind without fear of retaliation can provide valuable feedbacks that can be articulated and used concurrently in improving policies and procedures. I believe in encouraging our young people to voice their opinion, as our young people’s voice is as important as ours and a cry for the betterment of our people and our nation.
Madam Speaker, There is an inevitable outward migration of people from Vanua Levu to Suva, other parts of Fiji and even overseas for better opportunities. Everyone looks for greener pastures and unfortunately the North, is deprived of economic growth due to the exodus of its skilled and talented people.
The Northern Division is rich in its resources, which needs to be positively utilised and can contribute to the economy as a whole. With government intervention and support, these resources can be used effectively and utilised to reduce the migration of people from the North.
Furthermore, Madam Speaker, if we are able to retain our people in Vanua Levu, it would be a great asset to the existing businesses. In addition, the development of a fully-fledged University campus by both FNU and USP in the North will also be a contributing factor to retaining our young people, whose knowledge and skills can be further developed to enable them to be entrepreneurs starting their own businesses and contributing to the overall economic growth of the North.
- Revival of the Sugar Industry
Madam Speaker, with agriculture, in particular the Sugar Industry being the main backbone of Fiji’s economy for over a century, the revival of the Sugar Industry in the North will bring about a positive economic growth. Through proper funding and recovery programmes, the sugar industry in the North can be revitalized to provide more employment opportunities. It is important to note that not all school leavers end up in higher education institutions or get absorbed directly in the workforce. Some of these school leavers end up in the cane fields as a source of income to accommodate their daily needs. A healthy and vibrant industry is paramount not only for Vanua Levu but Fiji as a whole.
- Roads and Infrastructure development
Madam Speaker, to ensure social well-being and population cohesiveness and the well-functioning of economic activities in a country an adequate and efficient transport network is vital. It is also the right of the citizens to expect this from their government. An adequate and efficient transport network will greatly enhance the economy in the north. I understand the difficulties faced by decision-makers in their endeavour to facilitate a well coordinated transport network in Fiji. However, I believe that focus on Vanua Levu in terms of infrastructure development should be aimed at ultimately bringing economic parity between the two major islands of Fiji. I acknowledge Government’s efforts in tarsealing of the Dreketi to Nabouwalu Road. The economy of the Bua province is showing signs of improvement due to the upgrade of this road.
Madam Speaker, the government should also look into tarsealing the Nabouwalu to Nabalebale road and the road between Nacavanadi to Coqeloa. This will open up the economies of this region and give serious incentive to hoteliers given the serene and scenic nature of these areas. Moreover, having more cross – country roads will open up land and reduce traveling time for commuters.
- Electricity grid extension to rural & cane belt areas
Madam Speaker, with an increase in electricity supply to the greater population in the North, more economic activity will be generated; there will also be an increase in investment opportunities and improvement to overall productivity in the North.
Additionally, communication will be improved, urban migration will be reduced, and people will have better opportunities to study from their own setting. How children in Fiji are nurtured and educated is a strong determinant of Fiji striving to become a knowledge-based society. This can only be achieved if the people in Fiji are given unrestricted access to all forms of education based on equality, fairness and quality. And this is achievable with a good electricity access and supply and improved communication network and facility to the people in Vanua Levu.
Madam Speaker, clean drinking water is the most vital basic human resource for all communities in Fiji. Having proper water supply is the most powerful preventative measure to reducing infectious disease. According to the World Health Organisation, each day about 3,900 children die world over from dirty water or poor hygiene alone, as stipulated in the International Decade for Action 2005-2015. Proper water supply to all the communities in Vanua Levu will reduce medication and treatment cost caused by the lack of unhygienic water supply. Consequently, the economy will also benefit from investors.
Madam Speaker, in my vision for Vanua Levu, it is my desire to see improvement in infrastructure in the north, particularly our roads. It goes without saying how vital roads are to the economy in the north. Employers and employees are well aware that without good roads the adverse effect it has on businesses and livelihoods of people is overwhelming. Better access to electricity and water, revival of the sugar industry, are all important factors that contribute to economic growth in the north. With improvements on these fundamental issues that I have highlighted, it should provide an incentive not only for people to remain in Vanua Levu but also for investors to create opportunities for the people. Ultimately the unemployment rate will surely decrease; there will be a more even distribution of wealth for Fiji as a whole.
Madam Speaker, we should endeavour to be successful, and this aptly captured by Ralph Waldo Emerson when he defines success and I quote:-
To laugh often and much;
to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children;
to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends;
to appreciate the beauty;
to find the best in others;
to leave the world a bit better;
whether by a healthy child;
a garden patch Or a redeemed social condition;
to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived.
This is to have succeeded! Unquote.
Madam Speaker, to conclude, let us aspire to achieve the above objectives that will make the north the paradise it was meant to be, thus fulfilling the slogan, “Fiji the way the world should be”.
I look forward to working with each one of you and assure you of my unconditional and unwavering support towards a visionary Fiji.
God Bless the Friendly North and God bless Fiji