REMARKS BY THE SECRETARY GENERAL
Official Opening of the Reconstructed Pacific Islands Forum Fale
29 January 2021
The Prime Minister of the Republic of Fiji, the Honourable Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama and Mrs Bainimarama
His Excellency, the Honourable Speaker of the House Ratu Epeli Nailatikau and Adi Koila Nailatikau
The Minister for Defence, National Security and Policing, the Honourable Inia Seruiratu
Your Excellencies, the representatives of the Forum Member Governments
Na Gone Marama Bale, Na Roko Tui Dreketi, Ro Teimumu Kepa
Representatives of our Forum Dialogue Partners and Forum Observers
Representatives of our CROP agencies
Representatives of the civil society
Ladies and Gentlemen
It is my great pleasure to welcome you all this evening, and thank you for braving our current weather conditions to be here.
First and foremost, allow me to acknowledge the Honourable Prime Minister and Mrs Bainimarama, for joining us and accepting our invitation to officiate at this official opening of this magnificent structure.
Indeed, in most Pacific communities, a central structure such as a Fale or a Maneaba, set in a ‘village green’, is the venue and focus of all communal activities.
It is my hope, that this fale will be put to good use, in a manner and for matters that symbolize and promote the qualities that underpin our everyday lives as Pacific peoples. In this context, I am reminded of qualities such as nurturing relationships, the peaceful resolution of disputes, cooperation, solidarity and love of family, shared leadership and the celebration of the collective – our Forum family.
The coconut sennit lashings that bind and secure a canoe are represented on the pillars within this Fale. The lashings on the outer posts in this Fale were woven by magimagi craftsmen from the islands of Lau. The inner pillars, which currently remain bare, will be woven by the afa craftsmen from Samoa.
If I may borrow from a Tufunga Lalava or master craftsman in Tonga, Filipe Tohi, “the sennit is a symbol of genealogy, like the umbilical cord that links succeeding generations and connects us with our ancestors. You can feel the past and at the same time you see the present.”
As I approach the end of my tenure, I have found myself reflecting more and more on how far we have come as one region. Perhaps, most important to me personally, is the bridges we have rebuilt within the Forum family and the regional relations we have strengthened over the past 6 years – indeed, the very presence of the Prime Minister of Fiji here this evening is a testament to this.
Together, as the Forum we have exemplified our identity under the Blue Pacific. Indeed, in all Pacific cultures, our identity is more than just a name; it is a representation of who we are and where we are from. A representation of our heritage and where we belong.
I believe that the collective identity that we have carved for ourselves as one Blue Pacific Continent, inspired by the ocean that we all share, will serve to frame and galvanize our collective way forward as one region.
The Blue Pacific encompasses our whole region: Micronesia, Melanesia and Polynesia. It underlies our regional values and our very solidarity – indeed, 50 years on from the establishment of the Pacific Islands Forum, we must hold true to the values and principles that inspired us at its very beginning.
Your Excellencies, ladies and gentleman, we are in trying times; and the only way forward is together – the partnerships we create, both within the Forum and with our international and development partners will remain critical, and so too will be astute leadership, at all levels.
With those few words, I thank you all again for joining us this evening for this event and it I am honoured and humbled to invite the Prime Minister of Fiji to deliver his address.
I thank you.
–CHECKED AGAINST DELIVERY, 29th Jan 2021