WELCOMING ADDRESS BY THE BERETITENTI OF KIRIBATI
HIS EXCELLENCY IEREl-‘IA TABAI
11th South Pacific Forum,
(July 14 – 15, 1980)
Ladies and Gentlemen
It is indeed a privilege to be able to address you on this important occasion and it gives me great pleasure to extend to each one of you a warm welcome to our shores. All the people of Kiribati feel honoured and proud to be the hosts of the 11th South Pacific Forum.
They join with me in saying “KAM NA MAURI “. May your short stay in Kiribati be a happy and a productive one. I would like to extend a very special welcome too to Father Walter Lini, Chief Minister of the New Hebrides, whose independence looms near.
I am sure that I speak on behalf of us all when I say that I hope the unhappy differences that ‘exist in that emerging state will be resolved soon, so as to enable the New Hebrides to become independent as planned at the end of this month.
I do not wish to dwell on the situation in the New Hebrides but I must stress that my Government has always held the view that the wishes of the majority are paramount and that the legally elected Assembly in the New Hebrides represents the wishes of the majority as it does in all democratic societies. I therefore offer the New Hebrides Government my Government’s fullest moral support in its endeavors to re – unify the country.
For some of you present today, this is a first visit, but I hope it will not be your last, whether your next visit is private or official. But what you see here on Tarawa is only a small part of the whole.
The Republic of Kiribati as you know is made up of many islands set in a vast area of ocean. Yet Tarawa, the capital is representative of all parts, because here reside people from every inhabited island in the state, and it is this fact that makes possible a sense of unity, which would otherwise have been impossible with our islands so scattered.
The same sort of unity is typified too in the Forum. Its members come from far and wide in the South Pacific , are of different races , languages, customs, and yet we meet every year to discuss our mutual problems and seek solutions to them .
In most cases we are as one, but occasions may arise when the issues at stake are contentious, and there are differences of opinion which may lead to hot words. But at the end of the day, when our opinions have been voiced, we are still able to meet as friends and equals, conscious of the part that we have played, and will continue to play in this region of ours, the South Pacific.
In this day and age, when there is so much to unsettle us all – dumping of nuclear waste, nuclear testing, rockets falling amongst us – one small voice may achieve very little, whereas the concerted reactions of the Forum members to such things can prove a powerful lobby indeed, and a voice that must be heard not only in the region, but in the world.
I am sure that the delegates here today are not unaware of the problems that we have faced with regard to the industrial unrest on South Tarawa. There have been times when we felt that we would be unable to provide you with our traditional Kiribati hospitality, and therefore we were prepared, though unwillingly, to cancel or defer the Forum. But so strong is our belief in the importance to us all of these annual meetings, and so conscious of the honour bestowed upon us by being allowed to host the 11th South Pacific Forum that my Government, and indeed the general public, were determined that the Forum should take place as planned, and that its venue should be on Tarawa.
Though you may not be enjoying the comforts we would normally have accorded you , nevertheless, I know you will appreciate our difficulties and accordingly temper your views on any inconveniences. I thank you for understanding.
At this, the 11th South Pacific Forum, there are many important issues to consider, and I personal l y look forward to the discussions. From time to time, we find that we have to initiate changes in order to keep pace with events.
We have all been conscious I think for some time of those grey areas where the responsibilities of SPC and SPEC appeared to overlap. So I shall follow with interest the discussions on the Forum/South Pacific Conference’s recommendation that a single comprehensive regional institution should be created in the South Pacific by a merger and reorganization of SPC and SPEC.
I am pleased to see too that there are many other items on the agenda that will generate discussions, which may result in a positive approach being made to solving our common problems.
The Forum has been timed so that it coincided with our first anniversary of Independence. This was an important occasion for us, and I hope on Saturday you were able to enjoy the festivities as much as our people did.
We boast of our skill at sailing and it is a pity that the wind was not sufficiently strong to show you how speedy our canoes are. We claim our canoes to be faster than any others in the Pacific but I would not wish to risk having such a contention debated at this Forum, especially as some delegates no doubt may voice similar claims. But I hope that on Saturday you were able to relax and enjoy yourselves before the work that faces us today and tomorrow.
Finally, I would like to give my sincere thanks to those who have contributed so much towards making this Forum possible. Over the past months our friends from SPEC have been giving us sound advice and assistance and have thereby eased our difficulties.
We appreciate all that they have done. And to some of our friends who being aware of our limitations, have stepped in and given us assistance, thereby helping to make this 11th Forum possible, we extend our gratitude.
And to you all, the delegates here assembled, I thank you for coming though you may have had doubts that the Forum would take place. But you are here, and the 11th South Pacific Forum can now get under way. Our work can begin
To each and everyone of you, I say Te Mauri,
Te Raoi ao Te Tabomoa.