45 years of sovereignty

Today this nation marks 45 years since we took over the reins of government from our colonial rulers from Britain.

In 1970, there was much to thank the British for — they helped set up educational institutions, the judicial system, general elections, the 1970 Constitution and the protection of native land.

This country achieved its independence from Britain in much the same manner that these islands were ceded to Great Britain — that is, without too much of a struggle.

In fact, some may even say that the British handed independence to Fiji on a silver platter. Perhaps that was part of the problem. For too long valuable things have been handed out on platters without any real appreciation for the gifts being offered.

Perhaps some of the blame lay with our colonial masters for ruling the country through racial divisions and not preparing the population enough for the task ahead.

But 45 years on, that excuse is a lame one. From the time that we took over control of the destiny of the nation, our leaders should have recognised that divide and rule would only mean trouble for an independent country.

In 1970, this newspaper reported that the Fiji’s independence day celebrations went global with 600 people in England — reportedly the largest gathering of Fiji citizens ever held in Britain at the time — gathered for a dinner at the Royal Lancaster Hotel. In Paddington, Sydney, flags, dalo and yaqona were flown in for 400 invited Fijian guests on the occasion of Independence in Suva, Government ordered 2500 fl ags for the new nation.

And, when it was announced that Fiji passports would be ready for issue immediately after the 10th, two government ministers — Doug Brown and Wesley Barrett (the former owner of the Grand Pacific Hotel) — announced they would give up their Australian passports and take Fiji citizenship.

This Fiji Day, let us all ponder the question of how to make political leadership deliver the type of nation that we all deserve.

Everyone born in this country has some emotional attachment to it. This is clearly evident by the number of former Fiji citizens living abroad who continue to support development in this country through $300million in remittances — that’s about one-third of the national budget as reported in The Fiji Times in 2000.

Love of this nation is not restricted to a few citizens. It is something all citizens should be able to treasure in their own way.

The current generation of leaders owe it to the future of this country to ensure that our young people are properly prepared to take on the reins of leadership.

And leadership should not just mean political control.

Leadership comes in varying faces in the community, business, sports field, schools, and through political parties.

As our nation turns 45 today, let us all make a commitment to ensure we move forward to better times.

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