The Prime Minister, Voreqe Bainimarama, has praised the contribution made by the Rotuman community to the life of the nation in a speech to mark Rotuma Day 2014.
He was speaking soon after arriving on the island to begin his first visit to Rotuma since 2008. As part of a ceremonial welcome, he was carried ashore from his vessel on the shoulders of the men of Juju at the start of a day of celebrations, which are also taking place in other parts of Fiji and overseas. While there are around 2000 Rotumans who remain on the island, another 10,000 live offshore.
In his address, the Prime Minister said there is no doubt that for such a small and isolated place, Rotuma has had a disproportionate influence on Fiji’s development. “We find Rotumans scattered throughout Government, the private sector, the military and other professions. I’m fond of saying that Fiji generally punches above its weight in the world. But it is also true to say that Rotuma punches above its weight in Fiji”.
The Prime Minister said he was especially keen to be in Rotuma to share in the island’s celebrations and focus more attention on the importance of the Rotuman Community in Fiji. “Every Fijian, no matter, where they come from, honours that contribution to our national life. So today is a special occasion, a joyous occasion, not only for Rotumans but every Fijian.
The Prime Minister detailed a long list of improvements made to the island by the Government since he last visited six years ago, when he directed that a series of projects commence to address the needs of ordinary people. These include better roads around the island, improvements to the Oinafa Jetty, the upgrading of the airport, hospital and High School, more bore holes and a water treatment plant, a new 10,000 water tank and the provision of 71 head of cattle to improve the supply of milk and meat. He also said that Rotuma stood to benefit from the ongoing upgrade to the Government Shipping Service, that has already seen two new vessels enter service to cater for the needs of Rotumans and those on other outlying islands.
The Prime Minister reiterated the Government’s view that every Fijian, no matter where they live, is entitled to the same level of services as people living on Viti Levu. He also said the Government is looking at further ways – including improvements to the island’s agriculture and its ability to export food – to create further incentives for people to stay on Rotuma if they choose to do so. “Your population has been steadily declining over the years and there are currently five times more Rotumans living outside of Rotuma than the 2000 or so who remain. We want to address that steady decline by providing Rotumans with a viable, sustainable economic future, not only for themselves but for future generations”, he added.
After today’s celebrations -which include tradition Rotuman dancing and feasting – the PM has a meeting with the Island’s Council plus a talanoa session tomorrow, followed by meetings with community representatives across Rotuma on Thursday before he leaves the Island to return to Suva.