HON PM BAINIMARAMA SPEECH AT THE COMMISSIONING OF THE LOMAIVITI RUGBY CLUBHOUSE
Office bearers and members of the Lomaiviti Rugby Club,
My Fellow Fijians,
Bula vinaka and a very good evening to you all.
Fiji has become one of the great rugby nations of the world because of places like this. So I’m delighted to be here in Raiwai to commission the new facilities of the Lomaiviti Rugby Club.
This is where our young people develop a love of rugby, learn the skills of the game and have their imaginations fired to represent not just Lomaiviti but Fiji. And let me begin by reading out a roll call of some of the Club’s most famous sons – the national players who have made Lomaiviti what it is - a great force in Fijian rugby.
As I do so, I hope it triggers some wonderful memories of the thrills these great players have given us on the field over the years.
The Naituku brothers, Samuela Saumaisue, SaimoniRokini, JoeliVulavou, MarikaVunibaka, IosefoKoroiadi, Filimone Bolavucu, NacanieliSeru, SeruRabeni, SisaKoyamaibole, Viliame Gadolo, Epeli Ratuniata, Seremaia “Jerry” Burotu, William Rasileka, SamisoniViriviri, AdriuDelai, TomasiCamajnr of the All Blacks sevens team and the most recent Flying Fijians utility speedster, Benito Masilevu.
I’m sure you’ll all join me in putting your hands together and saying vinakavakalevu to all these great players for their contribution to the Lomaiviti Club and to Fiji.
My fellow Fijians, we are privileged to be living in a golden age of Fijian rugby in both the Fifteens and the Sevens. Our Sevens, of course, are World Champions and we have high hopes of them coming home from Rio in August with Fiji’s first gold medal in the summer Olympics. But in the Fifteens, we are also performing strongly.
We had a wonderful game against Tonga in the Pacific Nations Cup at the ANZ Stadium last Saturday, though perhaps the score was a little too close - 23-18. And we are all looking forward to the game against Samoa this weekend. On top of this, my Government has contributed 2-million dollars towards bringing the Super 15s to Fiji for the first time, with the Crusaders going head to head with the Chiefs at the ANZ Stadium on the July the 1st.
We’re keen to get the Sevens competition to play here in Fiji and I was very pleased to hear the Chairman of World Rugby, Bill Beaumont, say on Monday there’s no reason that can’t happen. So, My Fellow Fijians, rugby has never been stronger or more popular in Fiji. And let’s never forget why.
It’s because of all of us here tonight and the many thousands of other Fijians like us for whom a love of rugby beats strongly in our hearts.
It’s because of our young people who dream of eventually representing Lomaiviti and perhaps even Fiji. It’s because of those coaches and trainers who devote many hours to passing on their skills to each generation. It’s because of the hardworking people behind the scenes who run our clubs or do the catering or the cleaning. And above all, it’s because of the wonderful example our players set for the whole country of skill, dedication and endurance. And the way they fill our nation with pride as they set a standard on the field for the whole world to admire.
My fellow Fijians, our rugby players – whether they are great and represent Fiji, represent a club like Lomaiviti or who simply play the game like I do for fitness and enjoyment – are important role models in Fijian society. People look up to them. So how they behave matters. What they think and say matters. So they can be poor role models or a wonderful force for good in our efforts to build a better nation.
Tonight, I want to make a special appeal to our rugby players and other sporting role models to set an example in two very important areas of national life – building one nation and treating our women and children with consideration, love and respect.
Firstly, I call on you all to stand up for the principle of One Nation, One Fiji. Everyone moving forward together as Fijians no matter who we are or where we come from in Fiji. We must remain united above all else as we build a better Fiji. We must drown out the voices of division – those who seek to trigger or exploit suspicion and hatred against our fellow citizens. Because we can only achieve greatness as a nation by working together in the same way as a rugby team attains greatness. By every member of the team recognising each other’s skills, treating each other with respect, and working as one to put scores on the board for our nation – for our beloved Fiji.
My Fellow Fijians, it was very disappointing that one of our opposition members of parliament had to be suspended two weeks ago for a crude ethnic smear. She falsely stated that my Education Minister had made a reference to dumb natives when he hadn’t said any such thing. She was suggesting that an Indo-Fijian minister in my government thinks i’Taukei are stupid when he doesn’t think any such thing. Such comments sow ethnic division.
We all know the creation of an ethnic rift can have terrible consequences in Fiji. We’ve seen it all before in 1987 and 2000. It held our nation back for almost 30 years. And it must not be allowed to happen again. Because division spells disaster for a nation just as it does for a rugby team. And we all owe it to our children and future generations of Fijians to work together in a spirit of teamwork and unity. Because as I keep saying: it is the only way for Fiji to achieve greatness. To fulfill its promise, its destiny.
My Fellow Fijians, this opposition MP should have known better. She should have set an example. And that is what I am asking you all to do tonight. To set an example for our young people of teamwork for Fiji. To drown out the voices of division and hatred and embrace the principle of unity for our nation. One people playing hard for Fiji while treating each and every member of Team Fiji with consideration and respect.
Which leads me to the second point I want to make - the need for us all to treat our women and children with more love and respect. You’ll have heard me saying that real men don’t hit women. They look out for them, care for them, and treat them as equals. Listen to them and value their opinions. Real men don’t abuse children. They protect them, love them and do everything they can to give them the confidence they need to be successful in life.
Unfortunately, far too many of our men are failing that test. The level of rape and sexual abuse of women and children in Fiji is a national disgrace. The level of domestic violence is a national disgrace and shames every man in Fiji. So I am calling on the rugby fraternity and every sporting group in Fiji to fight the abuse of our woman and children. To take a lead on the issue in our communities. Lead by example. Because if we can get our nation’s role models to lead this campaign, then we have a much better chance of improving the status of our women – the heart of your families – and our children – the future of our nation.
My Fellow Fijians, I ask you all to think carefully about what I have said tonight. Because I can make all the speeches in the world about these issues of critical importance to our nation and none of it means anything unless I can get the people behind me. Unless we can match our words with action.
Only if we can get a grassroots campaign against ethnic division and against violence against women and children can we really make a difference. And I am looking to the role models in our communities to embrace change, if they haven’t already done so, and lead the charge. Of unity for our people and better treatment for our women and children.
Thank you all for listening to this important message and for the opportunity to be with you for this wonderful occasion. Your club has a long history stretching back to 1930 and plays an important part in the lives of young people across Suva – in Raiwai and Raiwaqa and the surrounding communities of Samabula, Vatuwaqa, Howell Road, Rewa Street, the USP and Flagstaff. During recent years, more members have come from the greater Suva, Nasinu and Lami areas. And now you have a new two story facility with gym equipment that reflects the importance of the Lomaiviti Club in the lives of so many of our people.
I promise you in next week’s Budget, that while we have some constraints because of Cyclone Winston, we will continue to invest in sport. Because we all know that sport not only promotes health lifestyles but brings us together as a nation in a very unique way.
Great days lie ahead for this club and for Fiji. And I now have great pleasure in formally opening the new Lomaiviti Rugby Clubhouse.
Vinaka vakalevu. Thank you.