Hon. Mark Brown, Prime Minister of Cook Islands;
High Commissioner Alan Tetava Richard Armistead;
Your Excellencies, Members of the Diplomatic Corps;
Ladies and Gentlemen.
Bula vinaka, Kia Orana, and Good evening.
First, I’d like to welcome Prime Minister Mark Brown on your first official visit to Fiji. Our regional relationships –– such as that between Fiji and the Cook Islands –– matter for every Fijian because no one understands our challenges better than our Pacific sisters and brothers.
Fijians and Cook Islanders know what it means to live with threat of the rising sea. We are sea-faring people and we will go to any lengths to protect our ocean for coming generations. When a cyclone strikes or nearly misses our islands, the Cook Islands can be in the cross-hairs –– we saw that during TC Sarai.
And import-dependent as we are, our people share the struggle of meeting the recent price hikes for food and fuel. That is why we can count on each other to speak as one of the most urgent threats our people face. That is why we can work together in earnest to find solutions. Because we know we share more than challenges –– we share a future.
Fiji and the Cook Islands’ 24-year-old partnership is quite young by most standards. To me, that says the best is yet to come. This opening of your High Commission in Fiji is a testament to that. It is quite literally a solid foundation on which we can build. And I’m grateful and excited for what it signifies.
You’re in very good company here in Suva. Increasingly, our capital has become a community that includes all major international institutions. Fiji is the Pacific hub of trade, travel, telecommunications, and finance, and Suva is the one-stop shop for all matters multilateral. In one trip to one city, our region’s Leaders can make connections and coordinate engagement with each other and the world. That could not matter more at the present time.
Our world is beset by a new war. Meanwhile, supply chains are straining to the point of breaking. That’s all to say, a more connected Pacific is a more secure Pacific. As a major producer of food and manufactured goods, Fiji is ready to play a much larger role to support regional nutrition security, shipping, trade, and human capital.
There are already around 800 Fijians employed in Cook Islands’ private and public sector who contribute significantly to both our economies. Prime Minister Brown, when our borders were closed during the pandemic, neither of us sat back and wished for the best. We pushed hard to re-open our region and ensure that any regional travel bubble reached further than the Tasman Sea. Eventually, we succeeded, and thousands of our people are back in jobs they love because of it. I’m confident our pandemic recovery will create more opportunities that our nations can and should seize together.
Today is a victory for unity in the Pacific. But we have much larger mission to unite our region ahead of us. If we can bridge our most recent differences in keeping with our Pacific way, I am confident we will be a stronger family for it. And I appreciate the Cook Islands’ commitment to keeping our Pacific family together.
Congratulations, again, Prime Minister Brown. You now have a true home here in Suva. I also acknowledge and commend High Commissioner Armistead and his team for their tireless efforts leading up to this evening’s opening.
Meitaki, Vinaka Vakalevu and Thank you.