Speech by Mr. Savenaca Narube, Leader of Unity Fiji
Let me first acknowledge the presence of the Chiefs of the Yasayasa Vaka Ra this evening. I thank them for their attendance and support. I am grateful to the Ratu Tevita Makutu for his words of encouragement and his call for unity. I thank all of you who are here tonight.
Let me tell you a secret--I have never aspired to be a politician. After working with two Prime Ministers and three Ministers of Finance and saw up close the complexities of being a politician, I vowed to myself that I would never become one. So why am I here addressing you this Friday evening? It’s a question that I have asked myself a lot in the last six months. After leaving the Reserve Bank of Fiji in 2009, I have established a successful consultancy business. I enjoyed the flexibility. The rewards were not bad either. I have now abandoned that comfort for something that I vowed not to become. Under the current political climate in Fiji, I am fully aware that I am sacrificing a lot more than my consultancy to be standing here tonight. With that sacrifice, it should be obvious to everyone that I am not here for myself. I am here for you--the people. I am prepared to make the sacrifice for the good of the people of Fiji. I believe that I can make a difference. I have to stand up and do something about it.
About two years ago, I and few others started talking about changes that we would like to see in where Fiji is going. We felt strongly that we want to leave a legacy of a Fiji that our grandchildren and those that would follow them, would be happy and proud to call home. We ultimately decided that the only way to achieve this aim was to establish a new political party. Unity Fiji was born. What do we want to change? We see an urgent need to bring people together in true unity; remove policies and politics that have divided us; develop a national vision of “unity in diversity” that is shared and owned by everyone; openly discuss ethnic concerns; listen to the people; and let people have their say on where the country is going. In summary, we want to put people first.
To be inclusive, Unity Fiji has decided to launch the party in separate occasions in the Northern, Central and Western divisions. There is a very good reason why we have decided to come to the West first. We registered as a political party on 6th July. The number of members required by law for the Western Division was 1,750. You know how many we got?--more than double the required number. We received over 3,700 members from the West--from all ethnic groups. This number surpassed those in the central division. This was very satisfying to me personally as I am from Nadroga. I believe that the large number was a strong and clear signal of our support in the Western Division. I thank all of you that signed up for Unity Fiji.
I truly believe that we are making history tonight. This is another milestone in the young life of Unity Fiji. We are here for the long term. We will nurture and prepare young leaders for the future.
After registration, we decided to go out and meet the people and explain who we are, what we are trying to change and, more importantly, listen to you. Again, we decided to head West first. Last week we held a series of meetings from Rakiraki to Cuvu. We sense with appreciation the growing support that Unity Fiji has in the West. You have told us that we bring something new and different--a new leadership heralding a visionary message of “unity in diversity”. You have said that a party that wants to unite us through a vision that does not require anyone to sacrifice his or her identity is something that many of you have been waiting for. Thank you for those affirmations.
Although I am a reluctant politician, I am passionate in what I do. I seriously believe that we WILL make a difference. You have told us that people were looking for an alternative. I tell you tonight, look no further. Unity Fiji offers you not only a political alternative but a credible one. We will deliver what we say we will deliver. We will deliver because we have a team that has the experience and the skills to deliver. You can place your confidence on the leadership and the team at Unity Fiji. We are here for you. We will put you first.
We have heard your views in our meetings last week and noted your concerns. Let me mention a few of them. First, you told us the obvious that the West was where the major resources were—sugar, tourism, gold, water. We discussed the continuing challenges that you face to convert your resources into cash that will lift your families out of poverty. We heard your disappointment that you have been asking for this for too long but nothing much has been done. I assure you tonight that Unity Fiji will devise a new approach to address this long-standing issue. Resource owners must have a fair share of the income from the use of your resources. You must also have a say on how those resources are used. Very importantly, as I have said before, we will not play politics with resources. That has been one of the issues that have divided us. We will address issues from all sides in the spirit of unity. We are all in the same boat. We will openly examine related issues that are necessary but remain largely unsaid, to improve our lives.
Second, we heard your views on the sugar industry. To the many families that currently rely on the incomes from sugar cane, we have heard your disappointment that, again, nothing much has been done to resolve the many challenges that you face. We, at Unity Fiji, understand the complexity of the multiple issues that confront you and your families. We will not be tempted to rush and give you band aid solutions just to get your votes. As I have said before, Unity Fiji is a credible party. We will not promise what we cannot deliver. We will examine issues in a credible manner. Therefore, given the complexities of these issues, we will consult further to get as much information as we can before coming back to you with our views on what we believe we can do in this important industry. We promise you that we will look at an integrated solution that addresses your immediate concerns and also the long term challenges of the industry.
Third, we heard your concerns on the e-transport for buses. We agreed with you that the push to use the new technology appeared to be far ahead of our phase of development and out of line with our priorities. We heard your complaint that this system is very inconvenient to you in the rural areas and to tourists. It mandates that all travellers register. I personally have not seen anything like this abroad and I have travelled to many parts of the world. You asked the question: If the scheme is not in the interest of the public, then whose interest is it serving? As a party that puts people first, Unity Fiji will review this system to make it practical and convenient to the public.
Fourth, we have heard your plea for us to address your basic needs—the so-called bread and butter issues. We consider our strength at Unity Fiji to be in economic and financial management. With an experience team, we will provide more jobs for our school leavers. We will do better to improve basic needs in health and education. We will improve the quality of public spending so your tax payers’ dollar will go further. We will not just throw money at people as this is not effective. We will be accountable and transparent to the people so you can be the judge of how well we are delivering what we promised to do. With that package of inclusive leadership, economic management experience, accountability and putting people first, I can assure you tonight that Unity Fiji will do a better job in developing our country.
We are drafting our manifesto. We will include these issues in it and present these to you closer to the elections.
I note that we have some volunteers here tonight that helped sign up members in the West. Thank you very much for your efforts. You can tell your children and grandchildren that you help create Unity Fiji. Volunteers are essential to our success. We are asking for your help. If you can, please be one of our volunteers in your area.
I thank you again for your attendance.
Thank you. Vina valevu