Sunday, October 11, 2009

Fiji Yet to Come of Age

Have we done enough? - Saturday, October 10, 2009

A YEAR short of four decades ago, Fiji attained its independence from Great Britain on this day.

The previous evening, the Union Jack - symbol of our status as a Crown colony dependent on others for its future - was struck at sunset.

Tears flowed freely down the cheeks of men who served with valour and distinction to defend the colony and the British Empire in the jungles of the Solomon Islands and the rubber plantations of Malaya.

Women bowed their heads and wept silently into their handkerchiefs, remembering the good times and bad as part of an empire over which the sun never set.

Children watched in awe as a nation came to a standstill and the flag which had been ours for 96 years was hauled down the staff for the final time, signaling the end of an era.

As the final notes of God Save The Queen faded over Albert Park - named after the consort of Fiji's first queen - a deafening silence descended together with a deep poignancy.

There were no shouts of acclamation, no jeering at the departure of foreign rulers.

That was left to places like India, Kenya, Nigeria and Singapore where people were forced to use violence to attain independent nationhood.

At Albert Park on October 9, 1970, the end of British rule was marked with solemnity, the ceremonies conducted with a respect for the Crown which has not diminished despite the passage of time.

The following morning the flag of independent Fiji was unfurled on the same staff from which the Union Jack was struck the previous evening.

A rousing rendition of Blessings Grant, Oh God Of Nations rang out across the capital and the crowds cheered with pride as independence became a reality.

Those cheers were the joyous cries of all our people - Fijian, Indian, Kai Loma, Chinese, European, Rotuman, Rabian and every other ethnic group which makes up this nation.

They were cheers of expectancy, of hope.

It is 39 years since that day when we gathered as a nation of one people at Albert Park and venues across the country.

What progress have we made since that day?

As we approach 40 years as an independent nation, this is an opportune time to reflect on the past while looking towards the future.

The question everyone must ask is this: Have we each done enough to ensure peace and prosperity?

Truthfully, we must answer in the negative.

Therefore we must ask today: What will we each do to ensure peace and prosperity in our home?

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