Walk the talk

THIS year Fiji will chair the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Convention on Climate Change – COP 23 in Bonn, Germany. It is an event which is currently being touted as a major achievement for Fijian Prime Minister, Rear-Admiral Frank Bainimarama, and an opportunity for the Pacific community.

That it may well be. Just as former Kiribati President Anote Tong was a champion for the battle against sea level rise, so has Bainimarama taken up the climate change mantle. While the annual COP meetings are important gatherings at which critical issues to the survival of the planet are discussed, it is important that our leaders not forget the urgent work which remains at home.

The reduction of use of fossil fuels must begin with the region’s leaders and the collective government machinery of our island nations. If Pacific leaders are serious about reducing fossil fuel use, they will immediately address the size and number of vehicles used in their daily motorcades.

The bigger the vehicle, the more fuel it consumes. Our leaders – in government, the Civil Service, commerce and churches – use some of the biggest cars, an obvious sign of their status. It is to them that the community looks for an example. The region must show the world real options for making reductions in the use of fossil fuels and mitigating against climate change.

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Walk the talk

LAST month Fiji marked the 137th year of the arrival of the first Indian labourers under the indenture system. Just under 61,000 labourers were transported to Fiji from India beginning in 1879 under what was to become known as the girmit (from the English word, agreement). On the backs of those labourers, Fiji’s once thriving and lucrative sugar industry was built. From the blood, sweat and tears of these proud, industrious people was built the economy which made Fiji a jewel in the crown of the British Empire.

Without that industry, independence would not have been a viable option for Fiji in 1970. This year ceremonies to mark the arrival of the Leonidas and its human cargo on May 15, 1879, were presided over by Fiji’s first non-indigenous president, Major-General Jioji (George) Konrote. He paid tribute to the labourers and their descendants. Konrote said the day was important and marked the vast contribution of these pioneer indentured labourers towards the socio-cultural and economic to Fiji.

Konrote said it was befitting that the occasion was celebrated on a national scale as the entire nation had benefitted from the labour and sacrifices of the first indentured labourers.

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