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Itatau from Team Fiji to the 2019 Pacific Games, Apia Samoa

June 27, 2019       State House, Suva

The Chef de Mission, Mr Patrick Bower

The Team General Managers , Mr Christopher Yee, Mr Ajay Ballu, Mr Calvin Yee and Mr Wayne O’Connor

Athletes/Players and Officials

Reverend Raki Tigarea

Members of the Media
Ladies and gentlemen

Ni sa bula vinaka, namaste, asalaam alaykum, noa’ia ‘e mauri, good morning and warm greetings to you all.

I wish to thank the good Reverend for the inspirational and spiritual message shared with us this morning.

Again I am honoured to receive, on behalf of Government and the people of Fiji, our Team Fiji Delegation that will represent Fiji at the 2019 Pacific Games in Apia, Samoa from the 7th to the 20th July.

At the outset, I welcome the presentation of your traditional itatau in the usual manner of pleasure and humble appreciation and gratitude that I have always welcomed all the National Teams that had come before you. In fact, you are one of the first teams that is privileged to present your itatau in the newly refurbished State House and this newly re-constructed Conservatory.

On that note, on behalf of my wife Sarote and I, together with our State House Staff, we welcome you all and wish to convey the Nation’s congratulations to each one of you for making it into the National Team. I am reminded of the Biblical phrase: “Many are called but few are chosen”, and you are the chosen few of the many who vied for a spot in your respective sports to represent Fiji to the 2019 Pacific Games.

I am informed that the 2019 Pacific Games motto is “One in Spirit”.  This dictum is powerful and inclusive in the sense that with unity anything and everything is possible.  The motto as shared by the Pacific Games organisers and I quote: “is a call to action, a value-driven statement and it has a faith based element…” unquote.

“One in Spirit” calls for many things, one of which is to work together, watch over each other and work with your coaches and management, whether in the sports arena or at camp. Whilst the Games bring about the opportunity to test and showcase your skills, the competitions you partake in will entail participating against the best athletes from around the Pacific. Hence, the need to support and be there for each other is of paramount importance. Therefore, whatsoever you do, do it for the glory of Fiji and most importantly, for God.

I am advised that this Pacific Games will see the inclusion of Women’s Rugby League competition and a first of its kind for the Pacific Games and for Fiji.  This is indeed welcoming news as far as the progress of Rugby League in Fiji and the Pacific as a whole is concerned and as Patron of Rugby League Fiji, I am so glad and equally appreciative for its inclusion in the Pacific Games programme. 

I am also advised that this Fijian sporting contingent comprises of a large number of competitors who are still students. This is certainly a sign of progress and I acknowledge and commend the work of all the sporting organisations that are able to put in place an appropriate development structure and programme for the athletes especially for students who are representing us.

This morning, I am particularly pleased to know that Team Fiji is today accompanied by some Para athletes who are also travelling to Samoa to participate in another prestigious competition including Athletics and Table Tennis. I warmly congratulate you all.  You are certainly reminding the nation that disability should never be used as an excuse to deny you from living a very active and equally fulfilling life. 

Despite such physical setbacks and challenges, with determination, the sky is the limit and that is why I referred to some of your Colleagues as – “Persons with Determination”.
With all of you, I wish to share again the enlightening words of the founder to the precursor of the Special Olympics, Ms Eunice Kennedy Shriver, who said, and I quote, “You are the stars and the world is watching you. By your presence you send a message to every village, every city, and every nation. A message of hope, a message of victory, the right to play on any playing field you have earned it”, unquote.

Ladies and gentlemen, let us be reminded that our beloved nation is currently involved in some very important and historical international feats, especially in the areas of leadership and sports.

Fiji, through its Permanent Representative in New York and Fiji’s High Commission in London, joined members of thirty-one Small Island Developing States, to represent Fiji at the “Our Oceans Wealth Summit” that was hosted last week at Cork in Ireland by the Republic of Ireland.

Earlier last month, our Prime Minister, Honourable Voreqe Bainimarama attended and gave a special address at the 6th Australasian Emissions Reduction Summit in Melbourne, and later in the month, Fiji hosted both the United Nations Secretary General António Guterres and the third Climate Action Pacific Partnership Conference.
The need to save humanity and Planet Earth from the effects of climate change, to leave no one behind irrespective of where one resides, and the continued efforts in educating and advocating efforts to build greater resilience to growing climate impacts whilst modernising and decarbonising our economies and societies demonstrate the big challenges Fiji has taken on board as a very concerned and equally determined responsible Member State of our global community. 

Likewise, the performance of our Fiji Sevens rugby team in the sports arena during the 2018-2019 HSBC Series and their winning the Hong Kong Sevens Title for five consecutive years, becoming the first team ever to do so, are successful achievements we are all proud of.

Now, I mentioned these to you because I want you to know that you are not alone in your efforts to do well in sports for yourselves, your families and our beloved nation. You can be part of the winning team that will make Fiji proud too.

Today, I encourage you all to work as a team. Play your part in your respective sports and individual positions well, but together. Listen to each other and look after one another.

I commend your respective coaches, officials and medical staff for preparing you for the Pacific Games and beyond! Your efforts and support have enabled the athletes to qualify for the Pacific Games.

At this juncture, it would be remiss of me not to mention and acknowledge the support and sacrifice of your respective parents and families. I also wish to acknowledge the tremendous and vital support of your benefactors.

On another note, as the Chief Advocate/ Champion in our beloved nation’s efforts to combat the Present, Real and Clear threat of Non-Communicable Disease related ailments (Hypertension & Diabetes) within our Communities, I wish to remind you; Please remain fit and healthy by living a healthy lifestyle now and always, even when you reach my age and beyond.  Inculcate and practise healthy living habits and get everyone you know involved.

Our nation spends so much annually to treat NCD related ailments – much needed funds that could be directed into other sector developments like Education and Improving Sporting facilities to ensure that our young athletes of today have the opportunity to continue to represent our country as healthy, fit, well trained and motivated Fijians and be an added inspiration for other young athletes in years to come.

I wish to remind you that as national representatives, you all have an obligation to perform to the best of your abilities and to be good ambassadors for Fiji both on and off the field. Represent our nation with passion and pride. Give in your best while you have the opportunity, do it for those who missed out, for your family and Fiji.

I once again extend my personal best wishes and the Nation’s wishes for a successful outing. Our prayers are with you all.

May Almighty God bless us all, your respective families, and our beloved Nation – Fiji and May He favour you in your games.

Thank you, Vinaka Vakalevu, fai’eksia and Dhanyavaad.