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Statement By The Na Gone Marama Bale Na Roko Tui Dreketi On Demise Of Former Fiji PM Laisenia Qarase

I read somewhere recently that it takes sadness to value happiness. It takes noise to value silence. It takes absence to value presence. We never know the value of a moment until it becomes a memory. We never know the value of a person until we see the gap they leave behind when they are no longer a part of our lives.

I have always known the value of Laisenia Qarase, having been privileged to have served with him in the Senate in 1999, then as a member of his interim cabinet following the 2000 coup, then as a member of his SDL cabinet from 2001 to 2006.

His untimely passing has brought into sharp focus the tremendous contribution he has made to the country and people of Fiji, and in particular his untiring efforts to help our indigenous community engage in Fiji’s economic activity. The establishment of Fijian Holdings as a vehicle for helping our indigenous community to make that transition is a testament to his foresight and vision.

As I reflect on my experiences with Mr. Qarase when serving as a member of his cabinet, I remember that:

Mr. Qarase did not seek to enter politics but stepped in to help stabilize the country at the request of the then Commander Frank Bainimarama after the 2000 coup. It is ironic that having entered into the political arena to help, the very person who asked him to help, would turn on him and treat him so badly then send him to prison.

Mr. Qarase made it his mission to improve the economic potential of indigenous Fijians and put them on a level playing field through the government policy of affirmative actions. Although unfairly accused as being a racist, Mr. Qarase accepted this as the price he had to pay to help the economically disadvantaged indigenous community at the time.

What may not be widely known is that Prime Minister Qarase had a plan to ensure the independence of the Great Council of Chiefs so that it no longer relied on Government for its funding. Mr. Qarase wanted the GCC to be self-funded and started the process with the construction of the GCC Complex in Nasese with its permanent meeting venue. This was stopped when the 2006 coup occurred and more recently, with the destruction of the Vale ni Bose.

Certainly, I always knew the value of the person of Laisenia Qarase, but only now since his passing and looking back over more than two decades of working with him, I now see and appreciate even more the enormous positive impact that his contribution has had on the country and the people.

It was my honour and privilege to serve as Mr. Qarase’s Minister for Education, Heritage and Arts.

To Leba and the family, the Yavusa o Qalitu, my sincere condolences for your loss and know that you are all in my prayers and thoughts.

Authorised by the Na Gone Marama Bale na Roko Tui Dreketi, Ro Teimumu Vuikaba Kepa

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