And so I turn to my maiden speech as a proud iTaukei who is a living example of why the Opposition is so fundamentally wrong. I certainly started out as disadvantaged like tens of thousands of Fijians of all backgrounds. But with hard work and determination – and not some accident of birth – I have fought my way up and earned the privilege of serving my country at the highest levels of Government.
My own experience has taught me that we iTaukei don’t need more advantages than other Fijians. We already have them by having the most important assets in Fiji – our people and our land. Some people opposite argue that iTaukei land is sacred. I agree with that premise because I share their view that land is a creation of God. But God’s intentions tell us that it is only sacred if it is used for the purpose of benefiting humankind and his progress. Not to sit idle but be utilised, as in the Parable of the Talents. It’s what we do with the land that really matters.
As the Honourable Prime Minister has said, we don’t need hand-outs. We need leg-ups. And my own life is the perfect example of where leg ups can transform an ordinary person’s life.
I come from the most humble of origins, born in considerable hardship to a single mother who is still alive in the village of Navunisole in Korovou, Northland, Tailevu. Her name is Senoveva Ranadi and I want to pay tribute to her before the nation today for her love and support.
I also want to pay tribute to my Grandfather and mentor, Mosese Radokana, who toiled on Tailevu Dairy Farm in Korovou until he was 75-years-old to enable me to go to school at the Natovi primary and secondary schools. It was a sacrifice for which I will be forever grateful. My Grandfather taught me the value of prayer and hard work. He always said that despite our struggles as a family, we could all live lives of satisfaction and he was right.
My Grandfather also taught me that my cultural values and tradition are only worthwhile if they don’t contradict the values of my Christian faith. They mean nothing if they don’t go hand in hand with the love of God and the love of man.
What made the difference for me was my Catholic upbringing, which educated me and taught me values of love and inclusiveness that is so far from that of the fundamentalists on the opposite benches as to be unrecognisable.
Our Lord Jesus Christ – were he to appear among us today – would be shocked to hear people who profess to be his followers making very unChristian principled statements.
I want to acknowledge the Vincentian Fathers, the Congregation of the Mission, especially Father Alan Finn, who taught me the values of compassion, love and care for the poor embodied by St Vincent De Paul himself. Father Finn is a Vincentian Priest from Australia. He came to Fiji in 1959 and is still alive at the age of 82 and living in Wailoku. He has been one of the major influences in my life.
For Form Five and Form Six, I went to St John’s College in Levuka, where I was educated by the Marist Fathers. It’s a notable fact that the Honourable Prime Minister, the Honourable Attorney-General and I were all educated in the Marian tradition, the PM and A-G at Marist Brother’s High School in Suva and me at St John’s College. The AG, of course, is a Muslim but he still subscribes to the Marian values – that was instilled in him by the Marist Brothers. That no matter what your background or religion, we are all equal in the eyes of God. In contrast to the Christian fundamentalists opposite us, our belief of Christianity is an inclusive one. The central teachings of Christ – love, tolerance, compassion, equality. And they are the values at the heart of this Government.
We are all on a pilgrimage in this life. One day we will die. And I believe that the only thing we will be asked at the end is “how much have we loved?” The fundamentalists say God gave Fiji to the iTaukei. The true Christian belief is that the world always belongs to God, never to a human on pilgrimage on earth. As in the words of the Psalmist in Psalm 24:1: “The earth and everything on it belong to the Lord. The world and its people belong to him”. God gave this world for everyone to share.
As with many of you, my greatest joy is my home life and I want to pay a special tribute today to my wife, Sereana, my son Mosese – who is named after my beloved Grandfather – and my daughter, Sarafina. They are my pillars of strength and I thank them for their love and support.
I also want to thank the Sisters of Our Lady of Nazareth, who mothered me in my 12 years of boarding school at Natovi and St John’s College. Some of them live at the order’s retirement home in Wailoku and I send them my love and thanks. And I also remember today a very great man – the late Archbishop of Suva, Petero Mataca, who had a great impact on both my life and that of the nation and who is deeply missed.
I want to thank those who assisted me with my election campaign, especially my campaign team – the FijiFirst officers in Suva and Nausori. And I want to thank my relatives and friends, the people of Northland, Tailevu, who voted for me in such numbers, second only to the Prime Minister, and who helped put me where I am today. I was also touched to find that people voted for me from across our nation and overseas. Although I will never know who you are, I want to thank you too.
As a kid, all I ever wanted to be was a truck driver. But by some quirk of fate, I wound up being a Colonel in the Republic of Fiji Military Forces. I served the then Commander and current Prime Minister as his first personal staff officer or ADC during the tumultuous years between 1999 and 2002. I eventually moved into Government at his side as Permanent Secretary in the Office of the Prime Minister. I shared his vision then and I share his vision now. And it is the sole reason that I am in Parliament today.
As Minister for Infrastructure and Transport, we have already begun to outline our objectives, some of which will be contained in the 2015 Budget next month.
We will continue the task of improving the nation’s roads and will create more opportunities for local contractors to learn skills from the overseas companies that are here so that they can eventually assume the role themselves to the same standard. We are also continuing our program. To provide access to water to more Fijians, especially those living outside those areas not covered by the Water Authority of Fiji. For those who live in the Delainavesi and Veisari corridor who have been having difficulties, I want to tell you today that in six months, the water woes that you are experiencing now will be over. I have directed the Authority to purchase four booster pumps that will guarantee that the corridor between Delainavesi and Veisari can get a clean, constant water supply. Unfortunately, it will take six months for the equipment to arrive but after that, you should have water 24/7.
We will continue our rural electrification programme and those communities that have contributed their 10 per cent will receive their supply either by grid or solar power. And we will also again boost transport links with maritime communities with the arrival of a fourth new vessel by the middle of next year.
I come here to this Chamber with the sum total of all the values that I have been fortunate to accumulate in my life. As an iTaukei, as a Catholic, from my years in the RFMF and from the vision of our Prime Minister of a better nation for us all if we stay united.
I want to assure you my fellow iTaukei that our aspirations as a people have never been as well secured as they are under this Government.
This Government is here for you, just as it is for anyone else who is Fijian. There is nothing to fear and everything to look forward to in the new Fiji.
God Bless our people. God Bless Fiji.
Vinaka vakalevu. Thank you.
CANCER OF CELEBRATION TO TIKODUADUA'S STATEMENT:
Rajendra Chaudhry leads chorus of critics: 'Too Little, Too Late'
"I have no animosity towards him. I have no ill feelings towards anybody. I think I am a very forgiving person," Mahendra Chaudhry towards his captor and rebel leader George Speight, 20 July 2000
Dekho: 'Dr Bavadra died of Cancer: Pio Tikoduadua's cancer has nothing to do with God's wrath upon him. What evil deeds did Dr Timoci Bavadra do for him to contract cancer? He might have been the last' decent man to grace Fiji politics.
Welcome Home: "Why is there not a centre for Palliative Care and a Hospice for the dying in each division?"