Address by the Rear-Admiral (Ret’d) Hon. Josaia V. Bainimarama CF (Mil), OSt.J, MSD, jssc, psc
Prime Minister of Fiji and Minister for iTaukei Affairs, Sugar Industry, Foreign Affairs and Forestry
Commissioning of the Fiji Correction Services Capital Projects – Corrections Inter-faith Chapel and Transport Office
15th Oct, 2021 SUVA 1500 Hours
The Commissioner Fiji Corrections Services; Commander RFMF; Commissioner of Police; Officers, Men and Women of the Corrections Service; Government Officials Distinguished Guests; Ladies and Gentlemen; Bula Vinaka and a very good afternoon to you all.
First, I want to congratulate the Fiji Corrections Service for being on track to vaccinate all of your officers. I believe all members of this institution, save for one, are fully vaccinated, and that remaining officer is awaiting dose number two.
Thanks to all of you who are among the over 595,000 adults in Fiji who have rolled up their sleeves to get the jab, we achieved our mission to vaccinate 80 percent of adults three weeks ahead of schedule. Now, our parks are filling with people playing sports and exercising. Our houses of worship and places of work are open.
And soon, our borders will re-open to our friends around the world so that our family and friends who work in the Tourism Industry can return to the jobs they love. Slowly but surely, we are becoming the Fiji we envisioned many months ago when we took the decisive measures that have delivered this decisive success.
But our work is not finished. I will not be satisfied until we vaccinate more of our under 18s, and as many of the eligible adults that remain unvaccinated as possible. You may know an unvaccinated person. They may be your cousin, aunt or uncle, or –– God forbid –– a grandparent who is especially vulnerable. Urge them to come forward and be protected, as we here all have.
I know I can trust you will do so as, through this ordeal, the Fiji Corrections Service (FCS) has been a leader in the adoption of COVID-safe practices. To limit exposure in your ranks and within the facilities you operate, some of your officers worked in isolation within corrections facilities for five to six weeks at a time. Some as long as eight weeks, I’m told.
Those months away from family in the service of this institution undoubtedly helped slow the spread of the virus until enough Fijians were vaccinated. And your institution fully enlisted in our national COVID-19 response. The intensity of our campaign demanded many of us take on roles we did not expect. But your officers did not hesitate.
You joined food ration delivery teams, and served as drivers, technical and operational staff in call centres and as part of the Ministry of Health and Medical Services FEMAT response teams.
When our ambulance driving teams had to enter quarantine as a result of exposure to the virus, one of your member, Officer Lace Chute stepped up as a substitute ambulance driver to transport ill patients to treatment centres. Officer Chute, please stand and be recognised. Let’s give her a round of applause. Thank you for your service.
Today we officially commission two new capital projects. One is a new inter-faith chapel that the FCS officers have self-funded. The other is a new transport office funded and built by your Government.
The former shows the commitment of the FCS to its communities of faith, and the bonds between its officers, and the latter shows the commitment of your Government to the vital service you all offer the nation. Effective institutions require both forms of commitment to function at their highest level.
The values of excellence, service, and camaraderie must echo through your ranks as well as be espoused by your leadership and Government. And that is what we celebrate today.
To fix up your old chapel, the staff of the FCS raised over $140,000 Dollars. Thanks to that effort, the doors of this new chapel are now open to your servicemen and women of all faiths who seek to pray within its walls and seek quiet contemplation. Congratulations on your achievement.
And this new Transport Office –– funded and built by your Government –– will be a new logistical hub for the FCS, as well as a home away from home for your officers. It was constructed at a total cost of 142,245 Dollars, and contains houses, showers, toilets and change room for your living-out personnel, as well as duty drivers and CCTV personnel.
I don’t need to tell any of you here that your Government has your back –– this new office is one of many ways we have shown our longstanding commitment to this institution and the women and men who make its important work happen. The annual financial commitment from my Government to the FCS dwarfs that past governments. Those funds have raised your salaries and improved your equipment and facilities.
We constructed the first women’s correctional facility outside of Suva. We have brought this institution’s practices in line with international standards, including the introduction of community-based corrections systems.
This year, a half- million-dollar allocation is going towards the construction of a new 600-personnel main cell block to ensure you and the inmates have appropriate facilities. I wouldn’t approve the building of a new cell block if I knew it wasn’t helping to address the root cause of criminality in Fiji.
Too often around the world, we see poorly-managed corrections systems that only succeed in perpetuating criminality. Too often, their prisons are breeding grounds for unsavory connections that keep inmate trapped in a cycle of criminality. And, too often, when inmates are released it is only a matter of time before the majority end up back in prison.
In Fiji, we know that a prison system is a failure if it does not rehabilitate those who carry out their sentences within it. We are striving for a criminal justice system, and a corrections service, that succeeds in making for a safer and more compassionate country.
You are the Fiji Corrections Service –– and the service you offer is the re-integration of those who have been imprisoned back into society. I’m very proud that over a two-year period, the recidivism rate for the FCS is only 1.06 percent –– one of the lowest in the world.
We see that success in the many Fijians who have served their sentences fairly and who go about their lives peaceful, law-abiding Fijians.
Thank you for all you do, and all you will continue to do to keep Fiji safe and deliver justice that is firm but also focussed on the good that can be created by a well-run corrections service.