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Fiji will not return to painful days of division, PM Bainimarama tells UN

Fijian Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama today called the life and legacy of South African Leader Nelson Mandela an inspiration to Fijians and all people who wish to live in a world of peace, tolerance and understanding.

“Through his life and legacy, [Mandela] is an inspiration to all of us who strive to respect and protect the human rights of all people,” he said.

“That legacy should mean a great deal to every person on earth. But it holds special meaning for the nation and people that I lead. Like South Africa, Fiji and the Fijian people suffered for decades under a political culture that fostered ethnic division, promoted hatred and fostered disunity between our communities.”

He said Fiji would never return to those difficult days.

“It is only in recent years that we’ve begun to shed that legacy and unshackle ourselves from that sad history,” he said. “We’ve done that through a strict and unrelenting adherence to the same principles that Madiba so nobly sacrificed to defend in his life: a commitment to equal opportunity, common and equal citizenry, mutual understanding and inclusive, wide-reaching prosperity. These fundamental principles lie at the heart of our constitution.”

The Prime Minister made his remarks at the Nelson Mandela Peace Summit, a meeting celebrating the 100th anniversary of the South African leader’s birth. The President of South Africa, My Cyril Ramaphosa and the Prime Minister of Ireland Leo Vadakar spoke at the Mandela summit and several world leaders addressed with summit.

Heads of state and government from around the world attended and spoke at the summit, the goal of which is to promote world peace.

The Prime Minister said that Mandela knew that we sometimes had to make sacrifices in order to solve long-standing problems. He cited Mandela’s sacrifices throughout his life for the principles of equality and tolerance, including 27 years of imprisonment, and the sacrifices Fijians have been making for peace and to combat climate change.

“It is a truth we in Fiji recognise as well,” he said. “That is why thousands of brave Fijians have served on the frontlines of conflict areas around the world as UN Peacekeepers over the past 40 years. We’re deeply proud of that legacy. We’re proud to make such a large commitment to global peace for a nation of our size and population. And we are equally proud to lead the world in confronting some of the great challenges facing humanity.”

The Prime Minister noted that we still face a world afflicted by conflict, racism and intolerance, but we can always find understanding in the shared experiences of our common humanity.

“At home, abroad, in every encounter and exchange, we must engage with an open mind, we must strive for acceptance and understanding, and we must remain committed to peace and democratic ideals and we must treat everyone as equals, men and women, people of all ethnic groups, young and old” he said.

Meanwhile,  Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama today called for a new relationship of people with the ocean, one that relies on stewardship rather than exploitation.

In remarks at the High Level Panel for Sustainable Ocean Economies, held in conjunction with the United Nations General Assembly, the Prime Minister said, “A sustainable ocean economy is not a choice, it is an imperative. We must rethink and transform the way we operate our economies—and in one sense, the way we live our lives—if we are to roll back the damage being done to our climate and our ocean and become proper stewards of these delicate resources.”

“We all must recapture and nurture that respectful relationship we once had with the ocean,” he said. “We need a change of heart as well as a shift in mindset—about how we will live with the resources we were given.”

The Prime Minister called for a global process that aligns local and national commitments with international targets.

“Action must be taken at a local and national level to make a difference in climate change, and they must include commitments that are tangible and accountable,” he said.

He said he hoped that the panel would be able to present a clear case for national commitments to promote on ocean health at the next UN Ocean Conference, “basically, Nationally Determined Contributions for oceans” that could be voluntary at first.

The Prime Minister said that the international community needs to work together to find solutions, new strategies and financing to manage fisheries and invest in aquaculture, transform our marine transportation systems, prevent pollution, invest in sustainable ocean-based industries and restore ocean ecosystems.

The Prime Minister is in New York to attend the 73rd Session of the United Nations General Assembly, which is taking place from September 25 through October 3


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