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December 9, 2020       Grand Pacific Hotel, Suva.

  • The Attorney General and Minister for Justice, Economy, Civil Service and Communications,Honourable Aiyaz Saiyed-Khaiyum;
  • The High Commissioner of New Zealand to Fiji, His Excellency Mr. Jonathan Curr;
  • The Acting High Commissioner of Australia to Fiji, Ms. Anna Dorney ;
  • The Resident Representative of the United Nations Development Programme,His Excellency Mr. Levan Bouadze;
  • The Deputy Commissioner of the Fiji Independent Commission Against Corruption, Mr. Rashmi Aslam;
  • Your Excellencies, High Commissioners/Ambassadors, and Members of the Diplomatic Corps;
  • Diplomatic Heads and Members of United Nations Agencies;
  • Members of the Public and Private Sectors;
  • Distinguished Guests; 
  • Ladies and Gentlemen.

Ni sa Bula Vinaka, Namaste, Asalaam Alaykum, Noaia ‘e Mauri, and a very good morning to you all.

Ladies and gentlemen, at the outset, I would like to acknowledge, commend and thank Mr. Rashmi Aslam, the Deputy Commissioner of The Fiji Independent Commission Against Corruption (FICAC), his dedicated and hardworking team and the United Nation’s Pacific Regional Anti- Corruption (UN- PRAC) Project Officials for organising today’s event to observe International Anti- Corruption Day (IACD). 

In fact, FICAC in partnership with (UN-PRAC) aim to enhance the International Anti-Corruption Day (IACD), today with the Launch of our Beloved Nation’s Anti-Bribery Campaign and in view of this Ladies and gentlemen, I deem it an honour and privilege to be addressing you as President and “The Pillar of National Unity” in passionately advocating for Good Governance in all its aspects.

On this International Anti-Corruption day, Fiji can witness the beginning of another important milestone in its fight against corruption through the launch of the Fiji Independent Commission Against Corruption (FICAC) anti-bribery campaign for the entire Civil Service and other Statutory bodies with a strong theme, “I don’t accept bribes”. 

This campaign has become increasingly important now, as the entire world community is presently reeling and grappling with how to effectively contain and hopefully eradicate the ravages of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Fiji has been affected like the rest of humanity but is very resolute and determined in its efforts not to succumb to the traumatic and devastating impact of the Pandemic and is on the resilient path to recovery; and with that, the theme for this year’s International Anti-Corruption Day 2020 is “Recovery with Integrity”. This theme of recovery with integrity complements FICAC’s endeavour in fighting corruption post COVID 19. 

In order to “Recover with Integrity”, the Fiji Independent Commission Against Corruption (FICAC) is launching a nation-wide public service: ‘I don’t accept bribes’ campaign, during which all Public servants in the civil service and statutory bodies will receive a badge saying, ‘I don’t accept bribes’. This is an unprecedented campaign of historic importance, which speaks of our strong commitment to eradicate corruption in Fiji across all sectors. This campaign has also been made possible with the support from our friends at the United Nations Pacific Regional Anti-Corruption (UN-PRAC) Project. Corruption especially in the form of Bribery is a menace for any economy. But its ramifications are way more severe for recovering economies such as Fiji.  

Bribery is one of the hideous and commonest forms of corruption, however, is difficult to detect due to its clandestine nature. Sadly, it occurs across the globe in varying degrees. It brings about inefficiency in public administration which affects public confidence that eventually hinders the growth of a nation, jeopardizing sustainable development and the rule of law, as well as deteriorating health and education. It spreads inequalities and perpetuates long lasting poverty. It can cripple the economy and, undoubtedly, a major obstacle for achieving prosperity.  Even the simplest form of bribery is a crime against a nation.  Fiji is not immune to the perilous effects of this insidious form of corruption. 

Fighting corruption has never been easier. It requires a National Psyche of Honesty, Moral Courage, Determination and Strong Will with carefully drafted laws and policies at the national level. Fiji has shown its commitment to fight corruption by acceding to the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC) in 2008. However, the political will alone is not sufficient to fight this menace. The will of the citizens is paramount. 

It goes hand in hand with our patriotism for our beloved country. If we truly love Fiji, as patriotic, compassionate sons and daughters and as a Nation and People, then we should NOT be engaged in any form of Corruption.   The Anti-Bribery campaign depicts the motto ‘I Don’t Accept Bribes’ and we intend to distribute the badges with the motto to all civil servants and employees of public bodies in Fiji. The aim of this meaningful initiative is to encourage civil servants to openly embrace integrity and build a culture of resilience against the incitement to bribery.

By wearing the badge whilst on official duty, we hope the conscientious civil servants will keep the motto close to their hearts and always act in a dignified manner. It also serves as a reminder to the oath that civil servants undertake when joining the civil service. The design of the badge reflects the nature and purpose of the Fijian Flag which will also remind them to protect the nation from this evil phenomenon with sheer patriotism. 

I can see that the badge is designed in such a way with the noble Fijian flag in the centre covered and protected by the phrase “I don’t accept bribes”. The message is simple: by not accepting bribes, we are collectively protecting our Beloved Fiji.  Civil servants have a greater responsibility in protecting the overall integrity of the civil service. If you have a culture of bribery, you have a culture of dishonesty. And bribery only attracts dishonest people. 

When you protect your integrity with the service you provide to the nation, not only are you safeguarding yourself, but the interests and wellbeing of your family and the country as well. Civil servants, must have the courage to stand up and say no to bribery and take meaningful actions to prevent bribery by reporting it. Bribery is a crime against our beloved nation.

Similarly, my message and plea to the business community is this: there is a right way and wrong way of doing business. Contaminating the civil service with offers of bribery will only undermine the transparency and accountability of the process you are dealing with. The final outcome of your actions will certainly affect the way you do business in the long term. The unfair competition you might breed through bribery will surely betray you at a time when you really need the transparency and accountability. I cannot emphasise enough the importance of our genuine and honest contributions to maintain the values/principles of the civil service and Good Governance.  

Fiji has invested considerable efforts to address the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on our society and economy. We have worked extremely hard with our partners in the business sector as well to tailor our response to this Present, Real and Very Serious Threat to our social cohesion and economic recovery and let us continue to remain focussed and committed to ensure that all Fijians are safe and well at all times. 

In these efforts, we have come to understand that without addressing corruption and promoting integrity, the effectiveness of our recovery from the socio-economic impact of COVID-19 may be undermined or limited. Thus, tireless promotion on the importance of transparency, accountability and integrity has become an essential part of our socio-economic response and recovery.  

I am pleased to note that FICAC in cooperation with the United Nations Regional Anti-Corruption Project (UN-PRAC), a joint initiative implemented by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), have taken a strong lead in promoting business integrity in Fiji, including among youth and women, which has proven to be such an important aspect of addressing the socio-economic impact of COVID-19. 

Ladies and gentlemen, in addressing the recipients of our 50th Anniversary Commemoration Independence Medal recently, I reminded them that despite the traumatic and devastating impact of The COVID-19 Pandemic, we should NOT be discouraged nor disheartened, but celebrate in style nonetheless because: This is Fiji – We are Fiji, A Resilient and Very Determined Nation and People which is confident that with Almighty God’s ever-present Love, Mercies and Blessings we will again overcome all adversities and continue to progress and prosper as a proud and Developing Independent Sovereign State that continues to “Punch Above its Weight” in our attempts  to remain relevant and contribute positively to the successful resolution of some of Humanity’s challenges; like – Climate Change – and Today’s problematic issue of Corruption!

Fiji acceded to the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC) on 14 May 2008, as one of the first Pacific Island countries to do so and presented its first review of implementation of UNCAC in 2012. 

Fiji is currently finalising its second review and I would like to wish all agencies well and every success in this regard. Fiji is also strongly committed to implementing the Agenda 2030 and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), since their adoption in 2015. All our work through UNCAC and through our public sector governance reforms dovetails very well into the important SDG 16 on "peace, justice and strong institutions."  SDG 16 sets a specific target to “substantially reduce corruption and bribery in all their forms” as a precondition for peaceful and inclusive societies. 

Our unique nation-wide ‘I don’t accept bribes’ campaign strongly draws our attention to this commitment for us to achieve this targetted outcome. Equally important is our constant strive as a nation to ensure a stronger nexus between our anti-corruption initiatives and our development and good governance agenda. We are fully aware that corruption has a direct impact on the three dimensions of sustainable development – social, economic and environmental. 

Therefore, we know that without moving from commitment to action on the anti-corruption agenda, we will achieve little progress in our national efforts to reduce poverty, promote social justice, and create more opportunities for all.  With these considerations in mind, we remain equally focused on horizontal integration of anti-corruption across all public sectors. The campaign that we are launching today is also part of that public sector wide initiative. 

At a national level, Fiji has had a strong partnership with the UN-PRAC Project, which is headquartered here in Suva, since 2012. Under the umbrella of UNCAC and SDG 16 we have worked with UN-PRAC (a joint initiative by UNODC and UNDP, supported by the Australian Government and the New Zealand Aid Programme) on numerous important initiatives: to strengthening of our governance legislation, reviewing Prevention of Bribery Act, Proceeds of Crimes, Financial Transactions Reporting Act, Extradition Act, and Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Act, among others. 

We are also in the process of introducing the legal regime for Code of Conduct for the public sector and leaders, as well as benefit from support to the National Anti-Corruption Curriculum. 

In conclusion, Ladies and gentlemen, let me once again reiterate that the campaign that we are launching today is about the importance of abiding by the highest principles of integrity and not accepting or receiving bribes in line with Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 16 and the requirements of the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC).  I sincerely hope this partnership and FICAC’s campaign with their training and workshops will provide the necessary forums and impetus to promote honesty and integrity in our society.  

I am confident that with the improved integrity, transparency and accountability in our civil service will be recognized and appreciated by the local communities and measured not only by the improved quality of the civil service, but also by the improved lives of each and every Fijian. I call on all citizens of Fiji to equally commit to our “I don’t accept bribes” message, which is symbolically reflected in our Fijian flag. 

We, all, therefore, must commit to this message with the utmost dignity, pride and responsibility as we make history today.

May Almighty God Bless you all. May God Bless Fiji.

Vinaka Vakalevu, Sukria, Bahoot Dhanyavaad, Fai’aksea and Thank you.