MINISTRY OF INFORMATION NEWS SUMMARY

1.?FIRST CITIZEN ENCOURAGES PARTNERSHIP WITH PALAU?- His Excellency the President, Ratu Epeli Nailatikau in his first State visit to Palau has called on ?leaders to consider strengthening co-operation with Fiji.
2.??VANUAVATU COMMENDS GOVERNMENT VISITATION?- Villagers of Vanuavatu have commended government?s assurances of refurbishment works to be carried out on the island?s nursing station and the provision of more water tanks.

3.?. FIJI CONFIRMS STRONG SUPPORT FOR THE SECRETARIAT OF THE PACIFIC COMMUNITY?- The Conference of the Pacific Community chairman and Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Fiji, Ratu Inoke Kubuabola, has confirmed Fiji?s support for the Secretariat of the Pacific Community.

4.?HEALTH WALK TO PROMOTE HEALTHY LIFESTYLE?- In the effort to reduce the high incidence of Non-Communicable Diseases in Fiji, the Health Ministry in partnership with Westpac Bank is promoting ?Move for Health Walk? which is an annual event.

5.?BANKING TO BECOME PAPERLESS: PS FINANCE -?In an effort to reduce cost and streamline operations, the Ministry of Finance has taken on board the Australia and New Zealand Bank?s internet banking facility.

6.?WORLD WATER DAY 2014 CELEBRATIONS TAKEN TO RURAL COMMUNITIES -?World Water Day 2014 will be celebrated worldwide with the theme ?Water and Energy.?

7.?AMBASSADOR TUILOMA ATTENDS INAUGURATION CEREMONY OF THE PRESIDENT OF CHILE?- Fiji?s Non Resident Ambassador to the Republic of Chile, Cama Tuiloma attended the inauguration ceremony of Ms Michelle Bachelet as the President of Chile upon the invitation of the Government of Chile. The ceremony was held on March 10-11 in Santiago.

1.FIRST CITIZEN ENCOURAGES PARTNERSHIP WITH PALAU

His Excellency the President, Ratu Epeli Nailatikau in his first State visit to Palau has called on ?leaders to consider strengthening co-operation with Fiji.

?Fiji seeks to build a closer relationship with the Government and people of Palau, and in time, by eventually formalising our ties which will encourage more people to people contacts between our nations,? Ratu Epeli said.

?For Fijians and Palauans to get to know each other better and to discuss possible areas of co-operation and trade, including partnerships in tourism, agriculture and fisheries.?

In his address to the President of Palau, Thomas Remengesau Junior, during a State dinner, Ratu Epeli elaborated on Fiji?s initiative of the Pacific Island Development Forum (PIDF).

?We are, especially keen for Palau to join the new Pacific grouping that Fiji is forging with its neighbors ? the Pacific Islands Development Forum, or PIDF, which had its inaugural meeting in Fiji last August,? Ratu Epeli said.

With Palau a member of the Pacific Islands Forum, His Excellency Ratu Epeli explained the disparities and advantages for the nation when joining the PIDF.

?Where the PIDF differs from the forum is that its reach goes beyond Government to encompass the views of a much broader cross section of Pacific society,? Ratu Epeli said.

?It has strengthened the voice of the grassroots in our member countries by including representatives of civil society and business. And we look forward to that chorus being joined by Palauans.?

Ratu Epeli said the PIDF was about forging a truly independent Pacific voice with the memberships ?confined to Pacific Island nations, whereas the Pacific Islands Forum includes some of ?the larger regional neighbors.

Fiji?s attempts at nation building was also outlined by Ratu Epeli, who explained our democratic progress to elections and the independent foreign policy, which includes peacekeeping duties and Fiji?s Volunteer Service schemes into Pacific neighbors.

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2. VANUAVATU COMMENDS GOVERNMENT VISITATION

Villagers of Vanuavatu have commended government?s assurances of refurbishment works to be carried out on the island?s nursing station and the provision of more water tanks.

Prime Minister, Rear Admiral Voreqe Bainimarama, who visited the island on Monday, reassured villagers of government?s commitment to improve the lives of ordinary Fijians.

Vanuavatu district representative, Joji Metiamate said villagers had never been visited by a Head of Government before.

?We would like to thank the Government for upholding its commitment to improve the lives of all Fijians,? Mr Metiamate said.

?This is the first visit by a Head of Government to this island and we welcome greatly the assurances PM Bainimarama made today,? Mr Metiamate said.

Similarly Vanuavatu villager, 17-year-old Lasarusa Veiqaravi said he was pleased to see a government delegation visiting his island.

?I am happy that finally the nursing station will undergo refurbished works and we have been told that we will receive water tanks,? the teenager said.

Villagers thanked Government through the Ministry of Works for being the executing agency for their water desalination plant which was commissioned last year.

Rear Admiral Bainimarama continues his visit today in Ogea.

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3. FIJI CONFIRMS STRONG SUPPORT FOR THE SECRETARIAT OF THE PACIFIC COMMUNITY

The Conference of the Pacific Community chairman and Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Fiji, Ratu Inoke Kubuabola, has confirmed Fiji?s support for the Secretariat of the Pacific Community.

And he has pledged to assist the organisation in its efforts to increase outreach, develop its network of international partners and better serve the development needs of Pacific Island countries and territories.

During a visit to SPC headquarters in Noumea on March 18, the minister had in depth discussions with SPC?s Director-General and members of SPC?s senior Leadership Team.

Topics covered included the proposed creation of new categories of associate member and observer, major initiatives underway in the statistics and fisheries sectors, the review of SPC?s governance arrangements, the implementation of a programmatic, multi-sectoral approach to development in the Pacific and SPC?s request to be granted permanent observer status at the United Nations General Assembly.

As part of Fiji?s commitment to its role as chair of the Conference of the Pacific Community, Minister Kubuabola confirmed Fiji?s willingness to propose that SPC be granted permanent observer status at the UNGA.

Fiji has also offered to facilitate contacts between the organisation and new and emerging donors, as a means of enhancing SPC?s outreach and expanding its network of development partners for the Pacific.

SPC Director-General, Dr Colin Tukuitonga, welcomed the extremely constructive discussions and the proactive approach taken by the conference chair to assist SPC strengthen its position as ?the premier, go-to organisation for the Pacific region?s development needs.?

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4. HEALTH WALK TO PROMOTE HEALTHY LIFESTYLE

In the effort to reduce the high incidence of Non-Communicable Diseases in Fiji, the Health Ministry in partnership with Westpac Bank is promoting ?Move for Health Walk? which is an annual event.

Health Minister Dr Neil Sharma said globally 6 per cent of deaths each year were attributed to physical inactivity.

?Move for health basically encourages people to participate in physical activity and this will contribute to healthy living among individuals,? Dr Sharma said.

?Non-Communicable Diseases has risen over the past years with diabetes at the top but to prevent this we need to eat healthy and exercise regularly.

?People should take ownership of their health and ensure they live a healthy lifestyle.?

Westpac Bank General Manager Adrian Hughes said the annual walk was to create awareness with the aim of combating NCD?s such as diabetes, heart attack and rheumatic heart problems.

The walk in Suva on Saturday will begin at 6am from outside the Suva Bowling Club.

?Through these initiatives we are able to create solutions on how we can combat NCD and encourage people to live healthy,? Mr Hughes said.

He commended the Ministry of Health for its continuous support in combating NCD and has encouraged every Fijian to be part of the event.

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5. BANKING TO BECOME PAPERLESS: PS FINANCE

In an effort to reduce cost and streamline operations, the Ministry of Finance has taken on board the Australia and New Zealand Bank?s internet banking facility.

Permanent secretary Filimoni Waqabaca said the longer term goal was to see all payments by Government centralised by the ministry for improvement of cash flow.

He said while the electronic funds transfer (EFT or e-banking) was the first step, internet banking would be another step with the ultimate goal of having paper-less transactions.

Internet banking through ANZ?s Transactive Banking platform, which has 90 clients so far, goes a step further to e-banking as the transactions are done directly rather than going via the bank.

?It?s really working towards paperless transactions in terms of banking,? Mr Waqabaca said while launching the facility in Suva today.

?This internet banking facility will allow Government to do business in a more efficient, safe and seamless manner both in Fiji and across multiple countries it does business with.?

He said the ministry would be happy to have a similar set-up with other banks if they offered the same facility because it saved costs of over $7000 per annum.

Other ministries will be encouraged to adopt the same system.

ANZ Fiji acting chief executive officer Rakesh Ram said the ANZ Transactive Banking was a market leading internet-based payments and cash management system.

In Fiji alone it has allowed transactions worth approximately $4.2billion in a month.

Mr Ram ANZ Transactive would enable the ministry to make online domestic and international payments more efficiently, improve cash flow cycles as well as connect the Government via secure e-banking platform to the ANZ?s network across Asia Pacific.

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6. WORLD WATER DAY 2014 CELEBRATIONS TAKEN TO RURAL COMMUNITIES


World Water Day 2014 will be celebrated worldwide with the theme ?Water and Energy.?

The Ministry of Works, Transport and Public Utilities in partnership with stakeholders has organised celebrations at Gatward Park on Friday, March 21.

The Minister for Works, Transport and Public Utilities Timoci Natuva will be chief guest.

The ministry will focus on awareness, advocacy and campaign on the importance of the proper use of water and energy to the rural communities with a local theme ?Save Water: Save Energy.?

This year students, businesses and the general public of Korovou, Tailevu will be privileged to participate in the celebrations.

Poster and placard competitions have been organised for participating schools along with the exhibitions and displays from stakeholders on the day for members of the public.

World Water Day celebrations will begin with a march at 9.30am from the Korovou Hospital led by the Police Band enroute to Gatward Park.

Members of all communities are invited to join in the day of activities to appreciate the element of water which is a main source of life for all.

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7. AMBASSADOR TUILOMA ATTENDS INAUGURATION CEREMONY OF THE PRESIDENT OF CHILE

Fiji?s Non Resident Ambassador to the Republic of Chile, Cama Tuiloma attended the inauguration ceremony of Ms Michelle Bachelet as the President of Chile upon the invitation of the Government of Chile. The ceremony was held on March 10-11 in Santiago.

Ms Bachelet was elected after winning 62 per cent of votes in the December 2013 presidential election. She is the first female president of Chile and she served from 2006-2010. In 2010, Bachelet became the founding Executive Director of the U.N. Women, a United Nations agency created to promote gender equality around the world.

Ms Bachelet will serve for four years and she cannot seek immediate re-election according to the Chilean Constitution. President Bachelet has big plans for the next four years: free education, reforming the tax-system and the constitution, and equal salaries for men and women are some of her major tasks and promises.

Initially as part of the two-day programme invited guests were scheduled to have a one to one audience with the former president Mr Sebastian Pi?era Echenique and also with President Ms Bachelet. However, due to a huge number of turn out this was not possible and therefore each guest was only allowed a few seconds to meet with the former and the current president.

In greeting President Pi?era, Ambassador Tuiloma congratulated His Excellency for his four years of outstanding leadership in Chile and the region and wished him well in his future undertakings.

Ambassador Tuiloma met President Bachelet and congratulated Her Excellency on her Inauguration as President of Chile and conveyed the cordial greetings of the President, His Excellency Ratu Epeli Nailatikau, and extended the warm regards and well wishes of the Government and the People of the Republic of Fiji to the President and her Government and the People of the Republic of Chile.

He added Fiji was honored to be represented in her country and stood ready to deepen friendship and support and strengthen bilateral relations in different fields, and opening horizons for future sustainable development and taking advantage of the fact that both countries enjoyed strategic locations in the southern hemisphere and the vast Pacific Ocean.

Ambassador Tuiloma extended an open invitation for Her Excellency to visit Fiji in the future.

Fiji and Chile are negotiating a number of bilateral agreements and memorandum of understanding (MOU) that will promote bilateral co-operation between the two countries. Fiji is optimistic these negotiations will be concluded soon and agreements and MOUs signed.

MINFO