Solomon Islands is not alone: Bainimarama

Fiji PM. Kadama/Solomon Star Photo
Honiara (Solomon Star) .Solomon Islands is not alone to face up to its many challenges, the visiting Fiji Prime Minister Commodore Voreqe Frank Bainimarama says.

Speaking at the 35th anniversary independence luncheon yesterday at Mendana hotel Commodore Bainimarama said Fiji and Solomon Islands both have struggled with the same challenges.

The common ones are individuals putting themselves and their narrow interest before the national interest, selfishness, corruption, prejudice and discrimination, he said.

Commodore Bainimarama said what has been celebrated was more than just another anniversary.

“It is a celebration of the way in which Solomon Islands has faced up to its many challenges, survived as a unified nation, and has set its eyes on the future. A nation determined to improve the lives of its citizens and take its rightful place in the region and the world.

 “We look back at some very difficult times – the tragedy of a nation divided by civil war and the resulting loss of life, the many challenges of restoring peace with the assistance of your neighbours, the renewal of stability and the continuing effort to rebuild your institutions and your economy,” Commodore Bainimarama said.

 But he added every one must also look forward to better times, as Solomon Islands joins hands with its Melanesian neighbours to forge ahead - to give renewed hope to all people that the dreams everyone shared at Independence are finally realised.

“The lesson for us all is that only through unity and a common sense of purpose can we fulfill that promise. It means putting hatred and prejudice aside, putting sectional and ethic interests aside, assisting the weak and the marginalised, building a sense of national purpose and working together as one nation.

“The Solomons is not alone. In Fiji, we have also struggled with the same challenges - individuals putting themselves and their narrow interests before the national interest, selfishness, corruption, prejudice, discrimination.

 “We have now removed outside influences so we can decide, for ourselves, our future – a future that will benefit our children and grandchildren,” Commodore said.

 He said it has taken Fiji many years to smash the barriers between their fellow citizens, to think of themselves not as members of individual ethnicities or communal groups but as Fijians, with common aspirations and a common future.

“We are now building a new and better Fiji in which everyone is equal and everyone has the same chance. And next year, we will have the first genuine democratic parliamentary election in our nation’s history of equal votes of equal value.

“Equally, we are now working with our Melanesian partners – including Solomon Islands - to build a new and better region in the South West Pacific, a stronger region with more economic clout and a louder voice in global affairs," Commodore Bainimarama emphasised.

Commodore Bainimarama said both countries treasure its membership of the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG).

“Because we know that the principle of strength through unity doesn’t just apply in our individual countries. United, the people of Melanesia can also be a bigger force in the region and the world at large.

 “We have a dream – a bold vision that we believe is achievable. We’ve already smashed many of the barriers in the way of the free movement of trade and people between our countries. But we’re now working towards something more ambitious - a common market between the MSG countries for the free flow of goods, services and labour.

“We also want to secure trade agreements with the rest of the world as a bloc, not as individual countries. And we want the Melanesian viewpoint to be taken much more seriously at the United Nations and in other global forums," he said.

 Commodore Bainimarama also thanked Solomon Islands Prime Minister, his vision and leadership.

 “For Fiji’s part, we have a strong record of engagement in Solomon Islands. 

 “Fijian troops spilt their blood here resisting the Japanese advance in World War Two. Fifty Fijian troops died during the Solomons campaign and we remember their sacrifice with gratitude.

 “Seventy years on, I am especially proud that three Fijian veterans of that campaign came with me on this trip -Sergeant Major Eliki Vuniwawa, Lance Corporal Ilimotama Wave and Commando Watisoni Seru,” he explained.

 He said Fijian troops have also served in Solomon Islands in recent times in the cause of peace as member of the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon (RAMSI)

“We also have Fijian civilians present at many levels to assist your efforts at nation building.

 “Be assured that Fiji stands willing and ready to take that assistance to another level with more personnel and resources, if that is the wish of the Government and people of Solomon Islands.“

Later yesterday afternoon, the visiting Prime Minister unveiled a plaque that reads: ‘From the Government and people of Fiji to the Government and people of Solomon islands on the 35th anniversary of your independence. In solidarity and friendship.’

Commodore Bainimarama said that plaque will be there through times as a history and a permanent reminder that Fijians have, and always will, extend the hand of solidarity and friendship to Solomon Islanders.

The plaque is located the national museum.

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