LABOUR and Employment Minister Jone Usamate has paid tribute to those who toiled and sacrificed to build Fiji to what it is today.
Speaking at the Fiji Day celebrations in Nausori's Syria Park, Mr Usamate said Fiji Day was a time to reflect on the sacrifices and commitment that people made on a daily basis.
"We remember their hardship, the hardship of those who came to Fiji as Girmityas and those that were blackbirded because they helped build our country," he said.
"We remember the services of the iTaukei and the European settlers, the Chinese businessmen. We thank them for their efforts. We recognise the services of our great statesmen and leaders of the past."
Mr Usamate, who was a Class Three student at Levuka Public School when Fiji became independent on October 10, 1970, said Fiji had come a long way.
"Fiji has a rich and proud history from which we should draw our inspiration. We take pride in the service rendered by the famous and the not-so-famous.
"We are on the threshold of achieving even greater things. We are on track to holding our first truly free and fair democratic elections in 2014."
Mr Usamate said during the past 43 years, Fiji experienced growth and development, and for a time became "the way the world should be", a reference made by Pope John Paul 11 during his visit to Fiji.