A Day To Re­mem­ber For Our Young Peo­ple

Fiji Sun - - Comment - NE­MANI DE­LAIBATIKI Feed­back: ne­mani.de­laibatiki@fi­jisun.com.fj

The cross-sec­tion of young peo­ple who par­tic­i­pated in the Con­sti­tu­tion Day cel­e­bra­tions at Al­bert Park in Suva yes­ter­day has sym­bolic sig­nif­i­cance.

It shows that the 2013 Con­sti­tu­tion is for them and for the fu­ture gen­er­a­tions of this coun­try.

The heavy rain that kept peo­ple in­doors in the cap­i­tal yes­ter­day did not dampen the spirit of these young peo­ple as they marched through Suva to Al­bert Park where their rep­re­sen­ta­tives helped the Pres­i­dent Ma­jor-Gen­eral (Re­tired) Jioji Kon­rote, de­liver the Con­sti­tu­tion Day mes­sage.

It was also great to see SODELPA leader Si­tiveni Rabuka sit­ting with other dig­ni­taries at the pavil­ion. We com­mend him for show­ing that he is gen­uinely in­ter­ested in na­tion-build­ing. He is be­lieved to be the first leader from the Op­po­si­tion par­ties to at­tend such an event. His sup­port for our Con­sti­tu­tion Day is a big step for­ward.

The young peo­ple’s par­tic­i­pa­tion yes­ter­day is a de­par­ture from tra­di­tion where they are hardly in­volved when it comes to na­tional events like yes­ter­day. The events showed the dawn­ing of a new day, the writ­ing of a new chap­ter in our po­lit­i­cal evo­lu­tion. The low­er­ing of the vot­ing age from 21 to 18 is part of this evo­lu­tion, to bring our young peo­ple to par­tic­i­pate in the main­stream of na­tional de­vel­op­ment. The young peo­ple who par­tic­i­pated yes­ter­day would no doubt be proud of the priv­i­lege to be part of the of­fi­cial cel­e­bra­tions. Their names, the name of their schools and in­sti­tu­tions and where they come from will form part of the his­tor­i­cal records. It’s a legacy they will leave be­hind for their pos­ter­ity.

They will proudly tell their chil­dren and grand­chil­dren that they were there on Septem­ber 7, 2016, to cel­e­brate the first Con­sti­tu­tion Day at Al­bert Park.

Next year, cel­e­bra­tions will be held in ur­ban cen­tres through­out the coun­try, which means more young peo­ple will par­tic­i­pate.

Many of these young peo­ple were born after the po­lit­i­cal up­heavals of 2000 and so they have lim­ited knowl­edge of what it is like to be caught up in the cross-fire of racial ten­sion fanned by politi­cians with ul­te­rior mo­tives.

Their older sib­lings, those who have turned 18, now have that won­der­ful op­por­tu­nity to vote. Those who are 16 now may just be able to vote in the 2018 gen­eral elec­tion if they meet all the re­quire­ments.

So they have this great op­por­tu­nity to de­cide the fu­ture of this coun­try and in whose hands they would en­trust it to. So far the Fiji First Gov­ern­ment has been do­ing a won­der­ful job in mov­ing the coun­try in the right di­rec­tion. We need to build on this progress. We are cur­rently en­joy­ing po­lit­i­cally sta­bil­ity, eco­nomic and so­cial progress and tak­ing great strides in ed­u­ca­tion and health.

But this does not mean that all is done. There’s more work to be done and room for im­prove­ment. It will re­quire ev­ery­one’s con­tri­bu­tion, par­tic­u­larly from the young peo­ple. The in­creas­ing so­cial in­ter­ac­tion of our young peo­ple from dif­fer­ent eth­nic, cul­tural, re­li­gious and eco­nomic back­grounds is a re­flec­tion of a chang­ing po­lit­i­cal land­scape. This has been ac­cel­er­ated by the re­moval of the bar­ri­ers that kept them apart for many years. The 2013 Con­sti­tu­tion con­tains pro­vi­sions that con­vince them that they are all equal de­spite the colour of their skin or which eth­nic­ity, cul­ture or re­li­gion they be­long to. The pro­vi­sions in the Bill of Rights em­pow­ers them to take those steps they be­lieve are right but may be deemed as cul­tur­ally and so­cially in­sen­si­tive or taboo.

Many in­hi­bi­tions that ex­ist in our so­ci­ety stem from our dif­fer­ences and di­ver­sity. This Con­sti­tu­tion gives us the con­fi­dence that we can over­come those in­hi­bi­tions or prej­u­dices. That de­spite our dif­fer­ences, we can mix and min­gle, dis­cuss is­sues openly and come to­gether on mat­ters that unite us as one peo­ple. And there are many is­sues that know no bar­rier and af­fect each and ev­ery­one of us de­spite our back­grounds. It’s in­cum­bent on all of us then to make de­ci­sions that will en­sure last­ing peace and sta­bil­ity and eco­nomic pros­per­ity for this coun­try. The free­dom or right of choice is a fun­da­men­tal tenet of our democ­racy. The Con­sti­tu­tion pro­vides us that right of choice. The other part that we some­times for­get is that we should ex­er­cise it re­spon­si­bly. We need to re­mem­ber that while we con­trol our choices we have no con­trol over the con­se­quences. Good choices will al­ways pro­duce good out­comes.

The smile on the young peo­ple’s faces yes­ter­day said it all. They were happy to be there at Al­bert Park. For them this was a day to re­mem­ber be­cause it was their day.

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