Maiden speech by Opposition MP, Simone Rasova

Opposition MP Simione Rasova delivering his maiden speech in Parliament this morning. Picture: SUPPLIED/FIJIAN PARLIAMENT FACEBOOK

Madam Speaker, the Hon. Prime Minister, Hon. Ministers, the Hon. Leader of the Opposition, Hon. Members and the people of Fiji joining us today through televised broadcast and online via our greatest medium, Facebook.

I rise here today as proud son of Kadavu to deliver my maiden address and to contribute to the debate before the House on the address by His Excellency, the President of the Republic of the Fiji Islands.

Madam Speaker as a Christian, I would also like to begin by taking a moment to acknowledge my heavenly Father through which all things are possible. I thank the Lord for granting me the strength and the patience to endure the last 12 years and everything that has lead me to this point in history.

I would also like to congratulate you, Madam Speaker, on your appointment to the Chair of this House, I wish you the best of luck in the execution of your sacred duties, especially in regards to overseeing my rambunctious and passionate honorable colleagues lining the benches of the opposition. Madam Speaker, the depth, experience, and confidence of the opposition bench is mostly a reflection of the vision and leadership of the Opposition Leader, the Hon Major General retired, Sitiveni Rabuka, who I am honored to call my leader. I only wish my Natumuan kai, Tanya Waqanika and her booming voice, could have joined the house as deputy speaker, without prejudice to the current deputy speaker.

Madam Speaker, I would beg your indulgence as I take a moment to thank my 3,286 voters, a majority of whom sacrificed a working day to cast their prepoll ballots to circle 551. I would also like to thank my biggest supporter, my beautiful wife Sereana Rasova and children – Veidovi and Veiwili Rasova.

Madam Speaker, in the spirit of bipartisanship and as the honorable AG has pointed out rather emphatically, I shall, to the best of my ability, use the Queen’s English without the consent of the Fijian affairs in giving my quote “icavuiti” unquote or in English my never ending thanks to the following tikina’s of kadavu:

1) quote “Vinaka vaka levu na Vanua vaka Turaga o Nacolase na Turaga na Tui Tavuki”, in English

“Thank you to the land of the coral grass, King of the Twist”.

2)  quote “Vanua vakaturaga i Koroisoso vua na Turaga na Tui Naceva” unquote in English “Thank you to the Land of the muddy village, King of the South”

3) quote “Nabala vua na Turaga na Tui Nakasa” unquote in English “Thank you to the King of the Yaqona sprouts”

4) quote “Valesasa vua na turaga na tui nabukelevu” unquote in English  “Thank you to the king of the plant foundation that lives in the house of the broomstick”.

Now madam speaker, if anyone laughed at the futility of my attempts to translate this into English, I would have to reluctantly agree. There are somethings that can only be expressed in Fijian that capture and portray the deep honor and respect those titles must be accorded.

So, with your permission I would like to withdraw my earlier attempts at renaming those esteemed titles in English and without prejudice or disrespect to the vanua, I would like to begin again.

I would like to give my heartfelt thanks to the Quote, “

  • Vanua Vakaturaga Nacolase, Vua Na Turaga Na Tui Tavuki,
  • Koro-i-Soso, Vua Na Turaga Tui Naceva,
  • Nabala, Vua Na Turaga Na Tui Nakasa,
  • Vale Sasa Vua Na Turaga Tui Nabukelevu,
  • Naivitbate Vua Na Turaga Tui Yale,
  • Vale Deideiga Vua Na Turaga Na Tui Yawe,
  • I noqu Vanua, Koro-i-Vabea, vua na Marama Na Tui Vabea Na Tui Ono,
  • Manusa Vua Na Turaga Na Tui Ravitaki
  • Nawaimalua Vua Na Turaga Na Tui Drue” end quote, for their blessings and guidance in endorsing my candidature.

Kadavu Province:

Madam Speaker, just as His Excellency Major-General (Ret’d) Jioji Konusi Konrote has implored us to work together in bipartisan unity, I pledge to work alongside Government during my 4 year tenure to uplift the quality of life and improve the economic standard of living of the people of Kadavu.

I was born in Lawaki village, Tikina Nakasaleka, the province of Kadavu. My birthright or Vola ni Kawa Bula to the Vanua Vakaturaga o Naturu, vua na Turaga na Rokovaka.

As a proud son of Naturu,. Madam speaker please allow me to quickly highlight the various issues affecting my home island of Kadavu.

On Road Improvements: I would like to thank the government for the latest road developments in Kadavu from Vunisea to Nabukelevu-i- Ra, Vunisea via Richmond Methodist School and the completion of the road from the Tikina of Yawe from Nalotu all the way to Lomati Nabukelevu.

Madam Speaker I would like to thank the Hon. Prime Minister for initiating the construction of a road from Kavala Bay to Vunisea. The people of Kadavu have really appreciated it, unfortunately, we were hoping that this road would than join the existing road from Vunisea, Namara but in the last 12 years, the road has only reached the village of Koro i Joma in October of this year. Without prejudice to the Hon Prime Minister, we would humbly like to request that he approve the further development of the road from his village of love, Namajiu, to merge with the existing road development from Koro-i-Joma. The people Naceva and Nakasaleka would greatly appreciate this gesture.

We also need a jetty in Nabukelvu-i- Ra and at Daku, Naceva, Kadavu to ease the transportation costs and save travel time. These government developments are already in place by previous governments and need the attention and action by the present government- the sooner, the better.

I would like to address Communications in Kadavu Madam Speaker.  After Tropical Cyclone Keni on the 10th of April, 2018, our wireless communication network hasn’t been fully restored. We need urgent repairs and maintenance to get it back to 100% coverage. This is a burning issue and needs prompt action.

While still on communications, Madam Speaker, the people of Kadavu also need the Walesi TV services and connections to be in par with the rest of Fiji and more so to keep themselves updated on current affairs and weather news.

On Health Centres: Kadavu is requesting for the maintenance and upgrading of the infrastructure in relation to the health centres and nursing stations located in the province.

On Yaqona, Madam Speaker: We are thankful to the Kadavu Provincial Council for the formation of the Kadavu Kava Association in partnership with the Government to give boost to the Kava industry in the province and enhance their income and improve their lifestyle. The nine Tikina’s have collected their levy and are waiting for the Government to provide its share to get this initiative off the ground. We would also like to implore Government to initiative the development of farm roads all over Kadavu.

Madam Speaker, given the land and labour as well as the need to empower the people of Kadavu in terms of agricultural development, I would like to impress the idea of government taking the lead under the auspices of its much publicized Green Revolution to enable the farmers to get engaged into diversifying the other agricultural commodities apart from Yaqona, Dalo/ Tavioka and fishing. This will again bring back the question of price stability and market security.

With regards to Sports in Kadavu, I must thank the Hon. Prime Minister for and on behalf of the people of Kadavu for initiating the development of a Rugby Stadium at Vunisea but the project needs completion and probably that needs his intervention. On the same note, Madam Speaker, we will appreciate if the Government can develop two more such stadiums, one each on the two ends of the Islands of Kadavu.

The issuance of business licenses in Kadavu, Madam Speaker is a hindrance to small and medium businesses. As it stands, in order for canteen owners to operate their store, they need to pay a licensing fee of $22 in addition to licenses for each product sold including cigarettes and other products that altogether total about $300. Now in order to apply, they have to travel all the way to Suva, get it vetted, spend 2 nights and travel back to Vunisea to see the Public Administrator who will then issue the license. If the minister in charge could kindly look into these requests to empower the officials in Vunisea to travel around Kadavu and approve licenses, thus saving prospective small business owners the burden of traveling to Suva.

Lastly on Kadavu, Madam Speaker, this House may be aware of the Marijuana issue in the Kadavu Province and in other parts of Fiji. The Kadavu people do not condone this illegal activity and are gravely concerned about how it has tarnished image. That being so and coupled with the harsh punishments meted out by the courts, I am of the view that state authorities need make the people to seriously become aware of substance abuse and the penalties they carry.

Fisheries:

Madam Speaker, I wish to thank the Hon. Leader of the Opposition for having the faith and confidence in appointing me as the Shadow Minister for Fisheries. I inherit this position from former Hon Ro Kiniviliame Kiliraki to whom I am grateful for championing the causes of the fisheries and forestry sector.

Madam Speaker, I was expecting to hear about the policies and programs of the Ministry of Fisheries when the Hon. Minister for Fisheries spoke two days ago but his speech leaves much to be desired and I am thankful that we will be working together for the next four years, not only for Kadavu but the whole of Fiji.

On an average, Madam Speaker, we are told that every person consumes 64 kg of fish per year making it a staple diet for our people, more so, that we are an island nation and those living in the rural and remote areas have limited sources for protein.

In addition to that, the nominal contribution the fisheries sector makes to our Gross Domestic Product or GDP is offset by the fact that the fisheries sector continues to create meaningful jobs and enterprise while seeking to make our fisheries sector competitive and to meet the demands of the export market.

Madam Speaker, the current and future issues faced by the Fisheries sector which needs the collective action and will of the Government, the resource owners, stakeholders in the fisheries sector and those fishing or importing our fish can be summed up as follows:

  1.    Protection of the sacred fishing grounds of the resource owners;
  2. Reviewing the I-Qoliqoli legislation to return the control and management of their fishing rights;
  3. Conservation of fishing grounds and setting aside sites as fish hatcheries;
  4. Patrolling illegal fishing in Fiji waters by modern day pirates;
  5. Price stability and market security for Fiji fish and fish products;
  6. Revival of PAFCO and other local fishing companies; and
  7.    Government assistance for aquaculture farming

Youth & Sports:

Madam Speaker, in addition to my above portfolio as the Shadow Minister for Fisheries, I’m the Assistant Shadow Minister for Youth and Sport to the Hon. Ratu Suliano Matanitobua to make a brief contribution on youth affairs and sports.

Noting that Fiji is a now a young nation in terms of our definition for youth age and given the analysis of our population pyramid given in the House, Madam Speaker, let us note that:

  1.    Substance Abuse;
  2. NCD cases in young and middle age;
  3. Poverty of access and denial of opportunity;
  4. Lack of productive citizenry and;
  5.    Absence of youth leadership at all levels of decision making

The above are some of the challenges faced by our youth in addition to employment opportunities, getting entrapped in the debt burden and the effects of climate change and environmental exploitation.

That being so, Madam Speaker, we in the Opposition acknowledge the fact that our previous and present governments have taken steps to empower our youth and seek to resolve youth issues under the auspices of:

  1.    Duke of Edinburgh Award
  2. Student Exchange Program
  3. Youth Volunteer Scheme
  4. National Employment Centre
  5. National Youth Council
  6. National Youth Band
  7.   Registered Youth Clubs

However, Madam Speaker, how many of our youth benefit from these initiatives remains a bigger question. Therefore, Madam Speaker, it is important to evaluate the problems and potentials, challenges and opportunities for youth in a holistic context.

This means aligning of our national policies and plans in par with the regional and international goals, for example, arts and sports are one of the highest paying vocations in the world but I fail to understand why we are not allowing our youth to excel in these areas which will mean more income for them, their families and this nation.

Madam Speaker, speaking on sports as a uniting force, avenue for entertainment, good health and longevity as well as a revenue and fame earner for the athletes, sporting bodies and the nation, I would humbly urge the Government to consider taking the following steps in this sphere in consultation with the stakeholders:

  1.    Enactment of a code for Sports Administration and Discipline Mechanism;
  2. Reviewing the Substance abuse legislation incorporating anti- doping measures;
  3. Community awareness on substance abuse and penalties on farming and dealing with illegal herbal drugs, such as Marijuana;
  4. Preparation of National Teams for regional and international competitions;
  5. Development of a National Database of athletes and sports officials like the FRU;
  6. Developing the necessary infrastructure to host regional and international sporting events;
  7. Establishment of a National Sports Insurance Scheme;
  8.    Setting up an aftercare fund for the welfare of retired and disabled athletes

Madam Speaker, should we be able to address these issues in time to come, it will lead increased sporting activities which will mean good health and long life for our people, more revenue and fame, better opportunities to unite and excel as a stronger nation.

Gratitude:

My heartfelt thanks goes to my campaign group known as “Team Kadavu 551”, my SODELPA President, Kadavu, Ratu Sailasa Matea, my Campaign Director Namaku and his family, my IT Campaign Manager, Joni Raiyawa of Daku, Naceva Kadavu, Manueli Taletawa, my son- Veiwili Rasova and our boat captain and brother, Samisoni Rasova, our polling and counting agents, volunteers and supporters for their sheer hard work and sacrifice leading to my election to this House.

A very special thank you to the 2, 882 were from the Eastern Division, 266 from the Central Division, 49 from the Western Division, 15 from the Northern Division and 74 postal ballots for me from Australia, New Zealand and the United States.

I also wish to thank the study of Men’s health advocates of Prostate Cancer, Suva Golden Oldies Rugby Club. I wish them well in their tour of Manila and Hong Kong in March and April of this year.

I would also like to thank the Rasova families of Black House, Raiwaqa Methodist Church, Raiwaqa Rugby & Basketball supporters, Raiwaqa classmates, friends and families in the Mua i Ra kei Viti. I wish to repay your faith in me by pushing for the upgrade of our Raiwaqa streets like Davui Lane, Derrick Street, Browning Street, Milverton Road and all the streets in Raiwai.

I wish to thank my Rasova families and friends in California U.S.A, London U.K, Brisbane Mt Isa, Sydney, Melbourne of Australia, in New Zealand and to all my Indian voters Fiji wide.

I wish to thank the Taukei Tamavua and his families for personally introducing me into politics Vinaka vakalevu Ratu. Thanking my former employees of both Fiji Air and Air Fiji since 1983 until 2000. Also I wish to thank Ms. Aggie O’Connor of Lagalevu based out of Brisbane who supported team Kadavu, vinaka Aggie, I will convey your congrats to another Lagalevu Hon Alex O’Conor.

I join my parliamentary colleagues to say Vinaka Vakalevu to my Party, the Social Democratic Liberal Party (SODELPA) for fielding me as its candidate in the 2014 and 2018 elections.

I was not so lucky in 2014 but my unwavering commitment to my people and my party paid me a handsome dividend in 2018. That is the reward of loyalty to our people and for preserving a standard of ideologies and political principles in life.

It is indeed a privilege to be in this House with the Kadavu free birds, if I may use that terminology, to signify and record the Kadavu spirit with my fellow colleagues, the Opposition Whip, Hon. Lynda Tabuya and Hon. Lenora Qereqeretabua. I look forward forming a strong lobby with them for the development of Kadavu and in championing the Kadavu pride in and outside this House.

Conclusion:

Madam Speaker, I wish to associate myself with all the Hon. Members of this House to plead with the leaders and people of this nation to shun their personal and political differences aside now that the election is over and come together to engage in meaningful dialogue and consensus building on national issues.

There is a lot of work to be done to liberate our people from the bondage of over- regulation and over taxation to make Fiji free again. Let us begin that by reconciliation, tolerance and unity and I do not have an iota of doubt that like our founder leaders despite all our differences there still exists some goodwill that can keep us moving and chalk out the way forward.

With these too few words, Madam Speaker, I wish you, all the Hon. Members, and our staff a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year 2019. Madam Speaker, I support the motion before the House.

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