Speaker’s Message – Commonwealth Day 2024

We once again, the member countries of the Commonwealth of Nations, generally known as ‘the Commonwealth,’ come together to celebrate Commonwealth Day. Every year, on the second Monday of March, 56 independent countries from around the world hold celebrations to commemorate this special day.

Commonwealth Day is a celebration of unity, diversity, and the links we share in the modern Commonwealth. This is a free association of 56 sovereign states; the United Kingdom and its former dependencies, that are bound together by their shared goals and ideals of peace, human rights, sustainability, democracy, prosperity, among others, and by the Commonwealth Charter which was signed by the late Queen Elizabeth II on 11 March 2013. It is a platform for inter-governmental co-operation, dialogue, collaboration, exchanges on education, sports, economic co-operation, and other specific areas of mutual interest.

In the heart of the South Pacific, the Parliament of Fiji stands as a proud member of this esteemed Commonwealth family. As a former British colony, Fiji inherited the Westminster model of democracy, a common heritage that binds us with other Commonwealth member countries, and we champion values that form the bedrock of good governance — democracy and human rights.

I wish to acknowledge the Commonwealth family for choosing Samoa for the upcoming Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (‘CHOGM’) 2024 and I commend the Samoan Prime Minister Fiame Mataáfa for the visionary theme chosen for CHOGM 2024 in Apia, ‘One Resilient Common Future: Transforming Our Common Wealth’, which is also the theme for this year’s Commonwealth Day. We are excited and looking forward to CHOGM 2024 in our region.

On this auspicious day, rich with tradition and shared commitment, we join 2.5 billion citizens under the banner of common values and aspirations. 

As the Speaker of the Fijian Parliament, I pay my respect to the Head of the Commonwealth, His Majesty King Charles III, for his leadership, and in doing so, I also express the Fijian Parliament’s best wishes to His Majesty for continued good health and happiness for many more years to come. The theme resonates deeply with the Parliament of Fiji, embodying the spirit of collaboration that defines the Commonwealth. It emphasises our shared responsibility to build a resilient and inter-connected world.

Our commitment to inclusivity is reflected in our involvement and active participation in the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (‘CPA’) networks, including the Commonwealth Women Parliamentarians (‘CWP’), Commonwealth Parliamentarians with Disability (‘CPwD’), and the Small Branches Network. As an active participant in the CPA, we contribute to the advancement of democratic values and parliamentary excellence. The CWP network provides a platform to advance gender equality in our parliamentary practices. Similarly, through the CPwD and the Small Branches Network, we contribute to creating spaces that ensure the active participation of every citizen, regardless of ability or the size of their nation. Through our engagement, we reaffirm our dedication to fostering dialogue, mutual understanding and co-operation among Commonwealth member states. These networks serve as conduits for inter-Parliamentary exchanges, capacity-building, and knowledge-sharing, fostering collaboration and understanding among our diverse parliamentary practices.

The Commonwealth continues to support small and vulnerable member countries, in particular Small Island Developing States (‘SIDS’), in new and more fundamental ways. SIDS, like Fiji, have fragile economies that are highly vulnerable to threats to sustainability, and 45% of Commonwealth states are SIDS, which are facing existential threats from climate change. At the 147th Inter-Parliamentary Union Assembly in Luanda, Angola, Fiji was appointed as the Chairperson of SIDS with the IPU organisation. This is another great milestone achievement for our small island nation, and we endeavour to make our voices heard and champion what matters most to us. 

The recent COVID-19 pandemic drastically affected the economies of SIDS, which heightened global awareness of their particular vulnerabilities, including their limited access to investment which hinders economic success. The innovative collaboration between the Commonwealth Secretariat and the University of Cambridge Centre for Resilience and Sustainable Development’s action-research project, ‘Their Future, Our Action’ gives new hope to the SIDS. We are adamant that by developing and using methodologies and tools with and for Commonwealth SIDS to articulate their needs, identify investible assets, explore capacities to attract investment, and examine new models for international finance, will empower SIDS Governments to secure sustainable finance and foster resilient economies.   

As we commemorate Commonwealth Day, let us renew our commitment to fostering a sense of belonging for every citizen. Let us embrace the richness that diversity brings and recognise it as a wellspring of strength in our democracy. The Parliament of Fiji will continue to uphold the rule of law and the Constitution of Fiji and is committed to ensuring that the voices of every Fijian are heard. I would like to remind our fellow Fijians that our citizenry responsibility does not end at the ballot box when electing our representatives to Parliament. Therefore, I am calling upon all Fijians, especially our youth, to actively participate in our democracy. This can be undertaken by meeting and sharing your ideas, issues and concerns with the elected Members of Parliament, participating in and giving submissions to Parliamentary Standing Committees, writing petitions and submitting them to Parliament through the elected Members of Parliament, and follow our media platforms to remain updated on legislation passed in Parliament. 

In conclusion, as we reflect on Commonwealth Day 2024, let us forge a path toward a stronger and more inter-connected future where the voices of all citizens, especially our youth, resonate in shaping the destiny of our Commonwealth. As we navigate the complexities of the 21st century, let the spirit of Commonwealth Day inspire us to move forward with determination, unity and a shared vision for a better world. Let us renew our commitment to the shared values that bind us together. The Parliament of Fiji, as an active member in the Commonwealth family, reaffirms its dedication to fostering unity in diversity, championing inclusivity and addressing the challenges of our time, so that no one is left behind.

I wish you all a blessed Commonwealth Day.