Ni Sa Bula Vinaka. Welcome. I would like to acknowledge the presence of
- Minister for Defence (Hon Jonetani Cokanasiga) and to thank him for his support for this project, and the support of the whole government of Fiji.
And although they not present here today, I would like to acknowledge the invaluable support towards this project given by
The PS for Public Service Commission, Mr Parmesh Chand
Ministry of Works and Public Utilities, Mr Tevita Vosaicake
I must just mention an additional guest, Lord Glenarthur, a former British Foreign Office Minister, but also someone who has been closely involved with Army Welfare issues throughout his life. A former officer in the Royal Hussars – he recalls with affection his first Troop Corporal in his regiment was a Fijian, Corporal Soro Vuniwaqa. Lord Glenarthur has stayed engaged with ex-servicemen and women and the Territorial Army, serving on various army boards. I know he wanted to see the Centre and I know he will convey news of this exciting project in Suva back to London.
I would like to thank the Fiji Government for identifying these quarters to be rented out to accommodate the Welfare centre. Our original proposal, to acquire some land and construct a new building might have taken some years. This existing building will be extended and refurbished to accommodate the welfare centre – and I hope that will all be completed by the end of June.
The facility will provide office space for the Royal British Legion (Fiji Branch) and the British Forces Parents Fiji (BRISFAF) and also serve as a centre for service personnel and their families to come and relax in a friendly environment knowing they are amongst people who share similar experiences.
Funding for the extension and the refurbishment has been provided by the UK Ministry of Defence’s Community Covenant Trust which gave a grant of £197,426 (nearly F$600,000) towards this project.
In providing this facility it is testament that both governments recognise the huge contribution and sacrifices made by those who serve their country and the families who support their loves ones. This is a form of recognition and it is one way of looking after the welfare of our military family.
This project has the full support of my Prime Minister, The Rt Hon David Cameron who said in a letter last year that “he was delighted to learn of the funding provided by the Covenant Trust which recognises the efforts made by those who serve Britain.” The Prime Minister further wrote that “those Fijians who join our Armed Forces know that they form part of a large family of British Service personnel whose contribution and sacrifices are recognised by the British Government.”
This Centre for me will symbolise the shared experience of those who have served the Crown, and their families. Many years of shared service, sacrifice – and everything that we owe these men and women, debts of honour and blood. But when we open the Centre in a few months time, I hope we will see that this is a place of happiness and joy, for families to enjoy, with their children and grandchildren.
Vinaka vaka levu again to everyone involved in the project, to the Fijian Government, to all the members of BRISFAF and the Royal British Legion Fiji, and to Major Jim Hall.