Government of the Republic of Fiji
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
A Better Fiji through Excellence in Foreign Service
MAIDEN SPEECH BY THE HONORABLE MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS, RATU INOKE KUBUABOLA, AT THE FIRST PARLIAMENTARY SESSION, 14 OCTOBER 2014
Madam Speaker, honourable Prime Minister, honourable Ministers, honourable Leader of the Opposition and honourable Members of Parliament, it gives me great pleasure and honour to stand before you today and to see you presiding over this august House. Like honourable Members of Parliament who have spoken before me, I wish to congratulate you, Madam Speaker on your appointment as Speaker and more significantly being the first woman Speaker in Fiji and indeed in the South Pacific. Madam Speaker, may I also congratulate and thank our Prime Minister for being steadfast and his unwavering commitment to our Roadmap and to bringing this country back to Parliamentary governance.
I remember, Madam Speaker, in 2010 when I was invited to the Ministerial Contact Group in Auckland which consisted of Foreign Ministers from Australia, New Zealand, Tonga, Samoa, Tuvalu and Papua New Guinea. After outlining our Roadmap to the Ministerial Contact Group of the Pacific Islands Forum, the then Foreign Minister of Australia, honourable Stephen Smith came out very strongly and said, “honourable Minister, I do not believe in your roadmap that you will not have elections in 2014.” I responded by saying, “Minister, I cannot help you, if you cannot believe me”. However, I know that the Prime Minister is very steadfast and committed to our Roadmap. From 2010 to 2012, our socio economic reforms to be done, in 2013 the Constitution making and 2014 we will definitely have elections and here we are. I want to thank the Prime Minister, especially for bringing Fiji back to Parliamentary governance.
Madam Speaker, may I also acclaim and congratulate His Excellency, the President of the Republic of Fiji, Ratu Epeli Nailatikau for his comprehensive and moving address on the occasion of the opening of the first session of Parliament on Monday, 7th October, 2014.
In his address, His Excellency the President urged that we, and I quote,“… dedicate ourselves once and for all to the democratic ideal – of genuine equality for all Fijians. And resolve to work constructively in our new democracy and in this refurbished parliament for the benefit of all our people.”
He appealed to us all to “… work cooperatively together to advance the national interest and to adhere to the highest standards of collective and personal conduct.”
He further emphasized that “As democratically elected Members of Parliament, your first duty must always be to keep the trust and confidence of those who have sent you here.”
Madam Speaker, the people of this great nation have indeed spoken in the recent General Elections. Their pervading message is loud and clear - they want and demand their leaders to come together in a genuine spirit of cooperation. I ask that we unite under this common purpose and seize the moment, as we can ill afford to fail and run the risk of our history repeating itself.
As we look back over 44 years since our Independence and the evolution of our nation’s political and international identity, we have much to be thankful for. The last few years, in particular, have given us much reason to celebrate and work even harder for.
In his address to this House on Monday, 7th October, 2014, His Excellency the President, encouraged us, and I quote “…to build on the reforms of the past eight years to continue improving the lives of ordinary Fijians and better equip our young people for satisfying roles in a growing, thriving economy.”
His vision of Fiji is to be, and I quote, “… a modern-nation state, taking a pre-eminent role in our own region and strengthening our voice and presence in the global community at large.”
Madam Speaker, many of our traditional friends, who were wedded to the Western concept of geo-political relations had questioned our decision to forge deeper bilateral relations with countries like the People’s Republic of China or the Russian Federation, among others. The Government’s foreign policy motto of ‘Friends to all, enemy to none’ was the driving force behind that decision, and the pursuit of expanding our diplomatic relations and enhancing our international persona.
As a result, Fiji’s relations with the international community has grown considerably in the past 8 years. Our international profile has been boosted significantly.
We are a small and vulnerable country. We can never again permit ourselves to be dependent—politically, strategically or economically on a narrow group of powerful countries. Our security must lie in establishing a broad set of relationships that protects us from the political winds that occasionally blow from one nation or another. More importantly, Madam Speaker, it will also give us more sources of trade, cultural exchange, development cooperation, financing, technology and military and diplomatic cooperation. However, that does not mean that Fiji’s foreign policy’s priority is simply to seek protection. Fiji has and will have a foreign policy that unselfishly and unashamedly pursues national interest based on openness, equality, principle and leadership. We will pursue productive relations with as many States as possible under terms that guarantee our equal treatment and that contributes to the well-being of the people of Fiji.
Madam Speaker, we know that we Fijians are not selfish or mercenary people. We are generous and principled people, and our foreign policy must be generous and principled as well. In that context, we will continue to do more than our share to promote peace and understanding in the world. We also know that this small country, Fiji, is larger and more developed than many of our neighbours. We have an obligation to provide leadership and resources that will help lift this entire region. It is an obligation that we gladly undertake with modest pride. The Pacific region, Madam Speaker, is not just our neighbourhood, it is the home of our brother and sister Pacific Islanders, with whom we are forever bound and with whom we must work closely to ensure our common future.
Madam Speaker, we have made these ideals and priorities the basis of our foreign policy. In turn, that led us to take actions that have raised our stature in the world. However, stature is not our goal, stature is the result of a foreign policy that is based on enlightened self-interest, principles, generosity and leadership. Fiji is a proud nation, a more confident nation, a nation that knows that it has a contribution to make, a voice to be heard, and an obligation to serve. We have a place at the table because we have demanded it and have shown that we deserve it, and of course, all other nations know that they can count on us to do more than our share.
Please permit me, Madam Speaker, to share some ways in which Fiji has increased its reach and stature in the world. These include the establishment of six (6) new overseas Missions; Fiji’s Chairmanship of the 133-member developing country bloc of the Group of 77 & China; our Chairmanship of the International Sugar Organisation; our hosting the 13thACP Ministerial Conference on Sugar; high level exchange visits with the People’s Republic of China and the Russian Federation; a State visit by the President of the Republic of Indonesia; and of course, the fact that we were the driving force behind the creation of the Pacific Islands Development Forum and hosted the inaugural meeting.
I am confident, Madam Speaker, that Fiji’s international persona will grow even stronger in the comings years as we stick to these guiding principles. I am committed to working closely with everyone in delivering the best Fiji has to offer to the international community, and in return, to win their confidence and attract their investments.
Madam Speaker, the Government’s foreign policy has decidedly projected a more independent, fair and more respectful global citizen. Fiji is ready and willing to play its part under the banner of the United Nations and within its rules.
His Excellency the President asserted us when he opened this Parliamentary Session that, and I quote:
“We are no longer just a small nation in some far off corner of the Pacific. We no longer can isolate ourselves from the rest of the world. The recent capture of the 45 of our UN peacekeepers has reminded us yet again that the world’s problems are our problems. We are an integral part of the global community and must carve out a successful place in it.”
In this regard, Madam Speaker, Fiji has since 2007 embarked on a major review of its diplomatic relations and widened its areas of diplomatic contacts by countries, as well as regions to cover the entire globe. Our diplomats are taking a message of hope, reconciliation where there is conflict, and peacekeeping and peacebuilding where there is discord. The latter explains our active and longstanding participation in the UN peacekeeping missions for the last 36 years.
In the implementation of Fiji’s foreign policy, Madam Speaker, we do not sit in judgement of countries we make contact with, because we respect their sovereign right as independent nations, to decide for themselves what they and their people decide is best for them. Fiji would like to be a bridge to countries needing understanding and support when they are going through difficult times. We do not intrude on the domestic affairs of nation states.
At a time like now, Madam Speaker, when many countries with which Fiji has close diplomatic ties are facing difficult challenges, we offer our solidarity and support for their efforts in promoting dialogue as the cornerstone of finding solutions to the problems they face.
Madam Speaker, Fiji sees the entire Pacific, not just the South Pacific as an integrated region that is driven by the shared value of “Collective self-reliance as an Engine of Growth”. Because of Fiji’s geographic location and relatively more developed status than most Pacific States, it is the obvious hub that can take a more significant role in regional cooperation through the newly established Pacific Islands Development Framework (PIDF). It is the first platform in the Pacific focussing specifically on green economies and sustainable development as established in the UN’s Global Agenda on Sustainable Development. PIDF’s inauguration has also launched a new era of regional cooperation through partnership and genuine consultation between governments, civil society groups, and the business community, hitherto excluded from the Pacific Government’s decision-making processes.
We are committed to working actively to establish a robust global follow-up system to make all nations accountable and ensure that the very critical interests of Small Island Developing States, like Fiji and our neighbours are respected and advanced.
Madam Speaker, I wish to underscore the great importance of addressing climate change, as the Minister responsible. Fiji, like other Small Island Developing States, is extremely vulnerable to sea-level rising, and the adverse impacts of climate change. They pose significant risks to our livelihood and our efforts to achieve sustainable development. It represents the gravest of threats to the survival and viability of many islands nations, including for some, through the loss of territory.
Fiji has proven its commitment to confront this global crisis. We have established a National Climate Change Coordinating Committee, and we are actively engaged wherever people are working to find solutions.
Madam Speaker, Fiji will build and capitalise on the unique characteristics, skills and talents of its people. We intend to explore official friendship programmes with other countries and regions of the world. The cornerstone of this friendship programme may be an increase in people-to-people exchanges and contacts through sporting events and cultural and educational exchanges at all levels. Our love for sports provides an excellent base through which Fiji can increase people-to-people contacts.
We are also keen to engage with those countries that possess rich musical and artistic tradition, from whom we in Fiji could learn. The same is true when it comes to Fijian culture with all its diversity. Cultural exchanges with bilateral partners will enrich our understanding of each other.
Madam Speaker, the citizens of Fiji are our greatest national asset. Their talent, energy and goodwill could advance our national interest, help build strong relations with other nations, and give and receive cultural and technological wisdom through these citizen exchanges. As we engage our citizens in our diplomacy, we become a stronger, wiser and more confident nation.
Madam Speaker, in concluding this speech, I wish to thank the people of Fiji for the trust they have placed in me. Many people worked hard to get me here, and I cannot thank them enough. I was amazed and humbled by the number of friends who offered to help along the way. I refer to not only members of the FijiFirst Party, and those whom I know, but also those who are not members of the FijiFirst Party, and whom I do not know. I thank them all, and I promise to honour their efforts. I could not and would not have taken this journey without the love and support of my wife and family.
I commit myself, Madam Speaker to represent the people of Fiji, and to contribute to the well-being and growth of this great nation.
Madam Speaker, I thank you for your patience and indulgence. I commend and support the address of His Excellency the President of the Republic of Fiji to this House.
May God richly bless Fiji. Vinaka vakalevu, sukria, bahoot dhanyavaad and thank you.
Ministry of Foreign Affairs P. O. Box 2220 Government Buildings Suva, Fiji