REMARKS: SG Puna to briefing on Solomon Islands-China

Member Briefing by Solomon Islands’ Minister for Foreign Affairs & External Trade, Honourable Jeremiah Manele and Minister for Policing, National Security and Correctional Services, Honourable Anthony Veke

Opening Remarks by Secretary General Puna

3pm 10 May 2022, Main Conference Room

 

· The Honourable Jeremiah Manele, Minister for Foreign Affairs & External Trade

· The Honourable Anthony Veke, Minister for Policing, National Security and Correctional Services

· His Excellency Lionel Aingimea, President of the Republic of Nauru

· The Honourable Edouard Fritch, President of French Polynesia

· The Honourable Mark Brown, Prime Minister of Cook Islands

· Honourable Ministers

· Excellencies, Senior Officials,

· Kia Orana and welcome to this dialogue.

· First and foremost, let me acknowledge the Honourable Ministers of Solomon Islands for making the journey to Suva to meet with us all.

· It is truly wonderful to have you here, in person, and to have the opportunity to sit together, to stori-stori lelebeti, and to dialogue.

· In allowing us this opportunity to meet with you today, you allow us the valuable opportunity to listen, to better understand your issues and concerns, and to understand the steps that you have taken as a nation.

· For me personally, this dialogue today demonstrates the value you continue to place in your relationship with your Forum Family – and for this, I thank you.

· This is entirely consistent with the Pacific Way – respect, dialogue, empathy and compromise.

· May I also acknowledge our members’ present today both online and here in person. Thank you for making the time and to some of you, the journey, to join us here this afternoon.

Context Setting – Global Challenges

· As we meet today, our region continues to grapple with the increasing intensity of geostrategic competition around us.

· Indeed, increasing interest can be beneficial to us as Forum Members, however, it can also serve to weaken our own solidarity as a Forum family, and impact our collective ability to address our common challenges.

· The range of significant global and regional events in the last 6 months, including the Russia – Ukraine war, are now impacting our region’s security and pressuring our own Pacific values.

COVID-19 pandemic

· The COVID-19 pandemic itself has challenged us all in many ways and across all spectrums of our society.

· It has separated us, and forced us to engage through virtual modalities, rather than in person. In my own experience, I have often found that virtual engagement allows space for misunderstanding, for miscommunication.

· I am so pleased, therefore, that we can, once again, gather in-person to dialogue and together discuss and reach a mutual understanding.

· As with all things, the pandemic has been both a blessing and a curse. It has exacerbated our long-existing systemic weaknesses but more than that, it has inspired a new and resolute spirit of determination – a determination across the region to overcome the challenges that are before us as a Blue Pacific Continent.

Tonga Humanitarian Relief

· As we entered the new year, we were met with the devastating impacts of the volcanic eruption and tsunami in the Kingdom of Tonga.

· I was very pleased to see the spirit of value and generosity as countries and organisations alike reached out to Tonga and her people, in their time of need.

Solomon Islands Unrest

· In amidst all this, we also watched with quiet concern the events that unfolded in Solomon Islands last November.

· Again, it was heartening to see the response of our Forum family to support the maintenance of peace and stability.

· As the Honourable Ministers and I discussed yesterday, Solomon Islands, like many of us across the region, face significant development challenges.

· We continually face the impacts of climate change. The increasing intensity of extreme weather events threaten to unravel our hard-earned progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals.

· With over 18,000 young Solomon Islanders entering the workforce each year, the geographical spread of the islands, and long distances to markets make it a humbling challenge to build an economy that caters for all.

· Based on discussion with the Honourable Ministers, I understand that the path to long term security and stability in the Solomon Islands lies less in traditional security assistance and more in the realm of economic development including investment and job opportunities.

· Perhaps, we can look to frame our regional assistance within this context.

Concluding Remarks

· In reflecting on the past six months, it is clear that in the face of real adversity, we, the Blue Pacific family, have come together the find a way forward.

· We are working together to re-build our economies following the COVID-19 pandemic.

· We are working together to mitigate the worst effects of climate change, and to adapt to the challenges that a changing climate presents us.

· We are working together to create job opportunities for our young people, so that they too can aspire to a better future.

· Excellency, Honourable Ministers, Colleagues, as you would be aware, the issue that brings us together today has been one of significant discussion across the region.

· I welcome the efforts of the Government of Solomon Islands to facilitate this briefing for the information of all Forum Members and in saying that, allow me to also reaffirm our ongoing respect for your sovereignty and your government’s sovereign right to determine what is in the best interest of your nation.

· Let us all approach today in a constructive manner, and mutually reinforce the spirit that places our collective good ahead of our own.

· I thank you.– CHECKED AGAINST DELIVERY

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