A Day To Remember For Our Young People
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.