Address at the University of the South Pacific 2018 Graduation for the Laucala Campus (Session three of three)
March 23, 2018 FMF Gymnasium, Suva.
T?he Pro-Chancellor and Chair of the University of the South Pacific Council, Ambassador Winston Thompson
The Vice-Chancellor and President of USP, Professor Rajesh Chandra
Your Excellencies, the Ambassadors and High Commissioners
Ladies and gentlemen
Good morning and Ni sa bula vinaka.
I am deeply honoured to be part of this graduation ceremony – the third of three sessions - in my capacity as Fiji’s Head of State and Chancellor of the University of the South Pacific.
And, I once again bring to you all the warm greetings of the Government and the Fijian people.
For those who were present yesterday, I hope that you do not mind me repeating my message, as I need to be consistent with all the graduants.
To all the graduants, it is with much pleasure that I extend our collective congratulations, as well as those of the University, to you.
All the hard work and the sacrifices have paid off. All of you here this morning, like your fellow graduants yesterday, are now qualified in your respective fields.
And, as I said to your fellow graduants yesterday, all of you have the world at your fingertips. Your qualifications will be a game-changer in your lives. You now have every opportunity to excel and do well for yourselves, your families, your communities and your respective countries.
I take my role as the University Chancellor seriously because all of you here this afternoon are the product of the concerted efforts of all the countries that own the University, to develop our human resources.
And I have every confidence that many of you, the graduating students, can become leaders in your respective fields of endeavour, leaders in your respective communities, and even leaders of your respective nations.
I also believe that your contributions can and will have a profound impact on the Pacific as a whole.
In conferring your degrees, and awarding your diplomas and certificates, I also wish to extend our collective and sincere appreciation to all those who have supported you in your journey: your parents, guardians, spouses, sponsors, family members including children and close friends.
Ladies and gentlemen, as Fiji’s Head of State, I am also grateful for this opportunity to briefly say that I look forward to strengthening the relationships between the peoples of our nations throughout the Pacific.
This is vitally important because we are increasingly challenged to deal with issues that directly affect our islands and our peoples.
Issues like climate change which knows no boundaries. The rising sea-level has already started to affect all our low-lying countries not only in the Pacific, but also around the world.
Here in Fiji, we have relocated several villages to higher ground, and we expect to relocate more in the years ahead.
Low-lying atoll Island Nations like Tuvalu is facing an even grimmer future, although I must commend the efforts it is now making to extend its shorelines.
The global community, as indeed the Pacific community, needs to be united in order to decisively address climate change.
It is for the very survival of our peoples, our islands and humanity at large that we challenge the world’s polluters to abide by the Paris Agreement to reduce carbon emissions to 1.5 degrees pre-industrial levels, and not more.
All of us in the Pacific are people of Big Ocean States. But, we are constantly at the mercy of modern day challenges such as climate change and trans-border crimes such as money laundering, people smuggling, trans-national refugee migration, and illegal fishing, among others.
And I strongly believe that our nations can, and must, work together to strengthen our capabilities to address these issues through ongoing education, and through our support of regional and sub-regional organizations, sharing experiences, advice and expertise in our collective campaigns against these issues.
As you may be aware, Fiji now holds the Presidency of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change or COP23.
And on this note, I wish to reiterate Fiji’s appreciation to all the Pacific Islands Leaders who were present at the COP23 Meeting in Bonn in November last year, and who responded positively to our Prime Minister and President of COP23, Honourable Voreqe Bainimarama’s call seeking the support of all Pacific Leaders to rally behind him in ensuring the success of COP23.
Their positive response was a living testimony to the solidarity we all have in our firm resolve to effectively combat the scourge of climate change to our people and communities.
We have said right from the beginning that our Presidency of COP23 is a Pacific Presidency, and I wish to assure you that during our term, we will always pour our passion into ensuring that issues of all Pacific Small Island Developing States are effectively addressed through the United Nations processes.
We continue to appeal for support from all our Pacific neighbours so that together we can form a united and strong voice within the global community. Because on an issue as important as climate change, we cannot afford to fail in our mission. We must keep this issue atop the global agenda.
We look forward to standing side-by-side with all our Pacific brothers and sisters; with your support and cooperation, we continue to work together, ensuring that all of the previously marginalized voices of the Pacific are heard more now than ever before.
To all the graduants, I wish to share with you a very short story about one of the most progressive countries in the South-East Asian Region - Singapore. I shared this story at the University graduations in Tonga and Vanuatu late last year and yesterday too.
In the 1960s, in a graduating ceremony similar to today, the then Prime Minister, and now the late, Mr. Lee Kuan Yew challenged the graduates to make life more meaningful and stimulating.
He urged the graduates to become ‘triers’ – people who made the effort to bring positive developments.
Singapore started its journey towards nationhood with no natural resources. But it has now become one of the model nations in the world that has made significant socio-economic progress because they focused on the one resource they had - their people.
Specifically, they focused on the intellectual advancement of their people.
All of us in the Pacific are very fortunate because not only do we have what Singapore has - our people, but we also have vast natural resources – our oceans included.
We just need to make smart and sustainable use of our resources so that they can provide for us now and for our future generations.
Today, I urge all of you the graduates to make your lives meaningful and stimulating by making the effort to bring positive developments to your families, to your nation and to the Pacific region as a whole.
Once again, on behalf of the University, and on behalf of the Government and people of Fiji, I extend our warmest and heartiest congratulations to all of you the graduants.
May Almighty God continue to bless you, your respective families, and our island nations in the Pacific.
Vinaka vakalevu and Thank you.
I, Jioji Konusi Konrote, President of the Republic of Fiji and Chancellor of the University of the South Pacific, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Charter and Statutes, now confer the Degrees and award the Diplomas and Certificates of the University, to those who, present and in absentia, have completed the requirements laid down by the Senate.