Your Excellency Ambassador Steven C. McGannYour Excellency Members of the Diplomatic CorpsDistinguished GuestsLadies and Gentleman
Today we happily gather to witness this important milestone, marking another chapter in the development of US engagement in the Pacific Island region. The inauguration of this new $45million US Embassy complex is also testimony to the significance of diplomatic relations between the Republic of Fiji and the United States of America.
And on behalf of the Government of Fiji, I have the honor to express our warmest and sincerest congratulations to the Government and People of the United States of America for this significant achievement.
HISTORICAL EVOLUTIONThis beautifully designed building, which I understand incorporated both Fijian and American design elements is a far cry from the humble beginning of the US consular presence in Fiji that extends back in time to before we became a Crown colony within the British Empire in 1874.
Diplomatic relation between our two countries however was established on July 22, 1971, when the Fijian Ambassador, the late Mr. Semesa K. Sikivou, presented his credentials to President Richard M. Nixon in Washington DC.
The American Embassy in Suva was opened on November 1, 1971, and Ambassador John P. Condon became the first U.S. Ambassador to Fiji to be resident in Suva when he presented his credentials on April 11, 1978.
For over 30 years the American Embassy has been situated on rented premises at Kelton House, 31 Loftus Street Suva. From today the Embassy will be operating out of its own Chancery Building in this 4.3 hectare compound with its state-of-the-art embassy facility.
This Embassy complex with its approximately 4,600 square meters of safe, secure and functional office space for some 25 U.S. employees and 75 local personnel I understand is going to meet current and future U.S. diplomatic needs in the region.
During construction over 7,500 cubic meters of concrete and reinforcing steel were sourced locally. Many interior and exterior finishes were also sourced and/or fabricated locally.
Sustainable ways have also been used in its landscaping design. I understand that a natural preserve area with many of the previous large trees has been maintained on the property; and over 30 indigenous species of local trees, shrubs, flowering plants and ground cover in the formal garden areas are being irrigated by recycled water treated on the compound. Energy conservation have also been adopted to manage ventilation and light that has positioned this Embassy to becoming a LEED certified project under the U.S. Green Building Council program on energy and environmental design.
The construction of this Embassy is also the product of many years of hard work by both our peoples: From the special approval given by the Fijian Government in 2004 to sell and convert the land the Embassy sits on from leasehold to freehold; to the over 23 Fijian contractors and over 500 Fijian construction workers who together with American construction contractor Telesource SHBC (Fiji) Ltd cleared the land and built the embassy to both American and Fijian building standards.
Excellency'sLadies and Gentlemen
We are not gathered here simply to celebrate a new building and to honor the people who built it. Rather, this larger and more important building represents the solid and growing relationship between our two peoples.
The move from rented premises to this impressive new complex is symbolic of our enduring relationship dating from the early days of American whalers and missionaries to our alliances in World War II and to our common development challenges in the twenty first century.
This facility provides far more than more extra elbowroom for US diplomats. It is a physical declaration in steel and stone that the US wants to have a significant presence and contribution here in the Pacific Island region.
Some experts argue that U.S. involvement in the Pacific Island region has waned since the end of the Cold War. Some political commentators have labeled US policy in this region as one of benign neglect.
In 2007, the Bush Administration however pledged to re-engage with the region and declared 2007 the "Year of the Pacific." The election of President Obama has given the Pacific a sense of optimism that American policies will now be complimented/matched by actions on the ground.
Overall we in Fiji are hopeful that we will see more evidence of our relationship and that American policies in the Pacific Island region will not only recognize but importantly be more responsive to the special development needs and aspirations of our people, as it is unique to the development challenges faced by Small Island Development States or in WTO terms, Small and Vulnerable Economies [SVEs].
In this regard we were greatly encouraged by the decision to reopen the US Agency for International Development (USAID) Office here in Suva after a lapse of fifteen (15) years. The contribution that is also being made in our development by the American Peace Corp is also much appreciated.
In addition to strengthening trade and preferential market access for Pacific Island products; addressing global warming and other environmental concerns in the region; and enhancing educational and cultural exchanges; it would also be good to see the new embassy work on creating a more modern framework for the development of our bilateral trade and investment relationship.
We are convinced there is so much we can do together and look at the future with optimism and eagerness of what has yet to be accomplished. I believe we can work in close and creative harmony exploring fresh opportunities as well as building a network of activities that strengthen our bilateral relationship.
The German writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe spoke of architecture as "frozen music". What will this music say to you, and to all who pass by or enter this new Embassy facility? I hope it will speak of ideas, the ideas that energize our relationship: that of mutual respect as sovereign nations, of understanding and tolerance and peaceful coexistence, of respect for human dignity, and the principles of equality and solidarity.
I believe that our relationship when it is built on trust and respect will play a crucial role as we work together for the betterment of our peoples and for peace and stability in this region.
Excellency'sLadies and Gentleman
As I conclude it is my honor again, to commend the United States Government for deciding to build its own Chancery Building in Suva.
I would like to assure Ambassador McGann that Fiji, through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs will continue to provide all the necessary cooperation and support to ensure the success of your Mission here in Suva.
Before I conclude however it will be remiss of me not to recognize the services of Ambassador McGann during his posting here. I understand he will be leaving shortly and there will be formalities and opportunities to express all our appreciation to him later. At this point in time however I wish to recognize his leadership in the construction of this new Embassy facility and generally his service on America's behalf in Fiji.
We at the Ministry also look forward to welcoming and working with Ambassador McGann's successor.
Vinaka vakalevu, dhanayvad, and thank you.
Ministry of Foreign Affairs & International Cooperation P. O. Box 2220 Government Buildings Suva, Fiji