Address at the Christmas Carols Program, Kade Village Koro on 21 December 2017 at 5.00 p.m.

• Liuliu Ni Yavusa
• Leweni Koro
• Honorable Ministers of Health and Women
• Senior Government representatives and officials
• Dignitaries
• Invited Guests
• Ladies and Gentlemen and
• Dear children

Bula vinaka, Namaste, Salaam aleikum and a very good evening to you all!

It is indeed a privilege to be part of the Christmas Carols program here in Koro. It is more like a homecoming event for me on the eve of Christmas.

On behalf of the Fijian Government, I would like to thank the Reach 4 Your Future Foundation and its president, Mr Ganesh Sen, for organising and bringing this program to the people and children of Koro.

I must also acknowledge the efforts of all those involved behind the scenes in making this event happen especially our official media partners FBC for promoting and providing coverage of the programme.

I thank the Kade community and the people of Koro for your hospitality and providing the venue and assistance in setting up the event itself.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Cyclone Winston caused the loss of life of too many Fijians and major infrastructural damage to our country. Many were affected and left homeless as the people of Koro know.

Many donor agencies together with the Fijian Government have provided support for the rehabilitation effort for the Island. We too well know that Cyclone Winston has left much more severe impact on many of you present here today.

The emotional and physical trauma will forever remain in our hearts and minds and there will always be a vacuum in our lives of losing our loved ones to the wrath of Mother Nature.

The impact of Cyclone Winston however also teaches us an important lesson. Ladies and Gentlemen, we are suffering the severe impacts of climate change and there is a need for stringent mechanisms to be implemented to counter the changing weather pattern.

Our Honorable Prime Minister has taken up the COP23 Presidency. This provides us the opportunity to reinforce, as was done at the COP23 meeting in Bonn, our role as a leading global voice calling on the international community to implement the ambitious but necessary targets agreed to curb the carbon emissions that are warming our planet.

Our Prime Minister, the Honourable Voreqe Bainimarama, and the Honorable Minister responsible for climate change are committed to drawing global attention to the impact of climate change and the damaging impact on Pacific Island countries.

This is being done to ensure that our people do not face similar situations to that faced during Cyclone Winston.

Ladies and Gentlemen, on a much lighter note they say time heals all wounds.

Today, we will enjoy together a Christmas Carols program to bring smiles to the many children and the people of Koro Island.

Christmas gives us the opportunity to pause and reflect on the important things around us – a time when we can look back on the year that has passed and prepare for the year ahead.

Christmas also gives us the opportunity to remember the Christmas story and to come together in hope and unity. This evening, the children will receive a small gift from the Reach 4 Your Future Foundation, the Ministries of Health and Medical Services; Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation; the Australian Rugby Union, my Ministry and many individuals in Australia.

We thank them all.

We note the gift is linked to education. That is because of this Government’s commitment to providing free education based on our belief that it is the critical foundation for a child’s future. I urge you to take this opportunity and study hard.

This time of year is once again a reminder to all of us to be happy, to work hard and to seek to achieve our potential in life.

With that in mind, I would like to also pay particular tribute to our brave service men and women who are overseas helping bring safety and security to all of us at home; their families who cannot be with them over the holidays; and to all the dedicated men and women in the emergency services who are working hard to support those in need.

When we are celebrating with family and friends, they and many others are all working on our behalf and deserve our thoughts and appreciation.

Like Eric Sevareid has famously said and I quote “Christmas is a necessity. There has to be at least one day of the year to remind us that we’re here for something else besides ourselves.”

I wish you all have an enjoyable evening. Finally a Merry Christmas and prosperous New Year to you all.

Vinaka, Dhanyabaad, Shokran and thank you all.