Honourable Co-Presidents,
Honourable Members of the ACP-EU-Joint Parliamentary Assembly,
Co-Secretaries General,
Ladies and Gentlemen.
Bula vinaka and good morning.
It’s my pleasure to welcome you all to Suva for the 29th Session of the ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly – Fiji is honoured to host this important meeting.
I would also like to recognise the support of our Pacific Island neighbours for the trust and confidence they have placed upon Fiji to host this Assembly.
In September of last year, Fiji held its first democratic General Elections under our new Constitution on the basis of one vote, one value. Since then, Fiji has made substantial progress in the restoration of democratic principles in the country.
Fiji is currently leading the Pacific in the representation of women in our Parliament. We have the first female Leader of the Opposition, Honourable Ro Temumu Kepa, as well as four women holding portfolios in Government – two Ministers – Honourable Rosy Akbar and Honourable Mere Vuniwaqa and two Assistant Ministers – Honourable Veena Bhatnagar and Honourable Lorna Eden.
The Secretary General to Parliament, Ms Vini Namosimalua, and the Secretary to Cabinet, Ms Susan Kiran, are also women. And of course, including myself as Speaker of the House – Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, this is the first time in Fiji’s history that all these three positions have all been held by women simultaneously.
In Fiji, women hold high posts in both the private sector and academia – this is an encouraging trend. Government remains committed to further ensuring a conducive environment for all, especially our women and children in their development and progress.
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Our Constitution is the rule of law for the realisation of a united Fiji. It has strengthened the equal recognition of all Fijians under the law and further enhanced the protection and promotion of civil and political rights as well as social and economic rights.
Now every Fijian enjoys equal opportunity and a common identity – we are all Fijian.
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Over the years the ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly has proved itself as an effective instrument of parliamentary cooperation in dealing with the development challenges of ACP countries, as well as in the promotion of democracy and human rights.
The most pressing of these challenges facing the ACP countries is that of sustainable development in the face of climate change.
We commend the EU on their recognition and commitment to address this issue, among others, and I am confident that through the JPA’s rigorous and dynamic system, our common threats can be effectively tackled.
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Our partnership and solidarity is absolutely vital to address the many challenges that confront us. We must bear this in mind as we look just a few months ahead to the affirmation of the Sustainable Development Goals and the Post-2015 Development Agenda by world leaders in New York.
It is only by working together at this Assembly and those in the future that we can achieve our common goals.
I wish you all the very best in your deliberations over the coming days.
And I hope you take some time to enjoy the natural beauty Fiji and its people have to offer.
Vinaka vakalevu, thank you.