President Major-General (Ret’d) Jioji Konrote and First Lady Madame Sarote Konrote joined New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and other dignitaries at the National Remembrance Service at Hagley Park on Friday in Christchurch in support of those killed and injured in the March 15th shooting.
Supported by High Commissioner Filimone Waqabaca, who accompanied His Excellency, the visit was an opportunity for Fiji’s Head of State to express support and condolences to the people of Christchurch and the Government of New Zealand.
Fijian community leaders in Christchurch acknowledged the presence of His Excellency as a major boost to their morale that complemented the assistance of the Fiji High Commission to families directly affected by the shooting.
Later that day, the Fiji High Commission partnered with the Fijian community in Christchurch to welcome Fiji’s Head of State in a show of solidarity across cultural and religious lines at the Sanatan Hall in Christchurch.
An emotional President of the Canterbury Fijian Association, Mr. Sulio Vuniamatana, said the Presidential Visit meant a lot to Fijians in Christchurch as they never expected Fiji’s Head of State to visit them.
His Excellency reiterated that his office and the Honourable Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama had reacted immediately offering condolences and support to the New Zealand Government and the people of Christchurch.
“Please remember the families and individuals affected by the Christchurch shooting. For those of you suffering the loss of immediate family members, my sincere condolences to you and your family.”
Pundit Rup Prakash of the Shree Sanatan Dharam Pratinidhi Sabha Christchurch echoed calls by the High Commissioner Filimone Waqabaca for all Fijians regardless of cultural and religious lines to work together for the good of the community.
About two hundred Fijians turned up at the Sanatan Hall to witness the traditional Fijian ceremonies of welcome and the double garlanding (iTaukei and Fijian) of both His Excellency and the First Lady.
His Excellency promised to return to Christchurch and expressed his appreciation for the warm welcome extended to him by the Fijian community.