The Prime Ministers of the Cook Islands and Fiji, the Hon. Mark Brown and the Hon. Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama together with the Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum and former Cook Islands Prime Minister Henry Puna presided over the opening of the Cook Islands High Commission to Fiji in Suva on Monday 6 June.
Prime Minister Brown opened his key note remarks with a kama’atu, “Taka’i koe i te papa enua, akamou ki te pito enua. A’u i te marae kia tapu, i tere ei to’ou rangi. The meaning of the kama’atu - when you journey to a new place, be sure to pay your respects to the people of that place. In that new place, take with you the values of our ancestors, embrace the ways of your new home, live with integrity and live with God, then you shall prosper. Prime Minister Brown said “today is a proud day for my people. This Marae we open this evening affirms our connection and commitment to Fiji - to this land and to its people – and the partnership we will both work to prosper in the years ahead.”
In response, Prime Minister Bainimarama said “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.” Footage of the remarks delivered by both Prime Ministers can be viewed at https://www.facebook.com/watch/live/?ref=watch_permalink&v=568284261509031 and txt on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs & Immigration (MFAI) website at www.mfai.gov.ck
The official opening of the chancery was hosted by Cook Islands High Commissioner to Fiji Alan ‘Jim’ Armistead who was appointed in April 2021. High Commissioner Armistead, of proud Mitiaro descent is a seasoned diplomat serving within the Cook Islands Foreign Service MFAI with considerable development and Pacific regionalism experience. HC Armistead was dispatched to Suva at the start of 2020 to set up the mission and drive engagement with Fiji government, business and academia and regional institutions. HC Armistead said ‘the opening of the Cook Islands High Commission reaffirms the Government of Cook Islands exemplary partnership with the Fijian Government and shared aspirations”.
In welcoming guests to the opening, High Commissioner Armistead acknowledged the contributions of those who’d brought the mission to fruition, “I commend the drive of the Secretary of Foreign Affairs, Tepaeru Herrmann who’s determined advocacy laid the foundations for this office. It was then championed by the former Prime Minister and current Forum Secretary General Henry Puna. And finally, it’s been delivered by our Prime Minister the Hon. Mark Brown.” The High Commissioner went on to say “it is an honour to have them here this evening to see the fruits of their labour and place the Cook Islands prospects with Fiji on a firm footing.”
Invited guests included Ministers of the Fiji Government, the diplomatic corps, business representatives, Cook Islands nationals working and studying in Fiji and representatives of multiple regional and international multilateral organisations based in Suva. In addition to Fiji’s Prime Minister Bainimarama, other distinguished guests included Forum Leaders Hon. Surangel Whipps jnr of Palau, Federated States of Micronesia Hon. David Panuelo, and Marshall Islands Special envoy Minister John Silk.
Since the opening of the Cook Islands borders to international borders at the beginning of this year, MFAI headquarters and the Suva mission have experienced notable increases in enquiries and engagements from Cook Islands and Fiji businesses, Fiji nationals and Suva members of the diplomatic corp. MFAI Secretary Tepaeru Herrmann said “the support from the Fiji Government, political and officials levels towards MFAI and HC Armistead for the establishment of our mission in Suva has been integral to the profile and networks the mission has been able to establish despite COVID disruption and within a short period of time. As with our mission in Wellington, our Suva operations will be cost efficient with high impact - a 3 person staffing complement led by HC Armistead and supported by MFAI’s Pacific and Regional Affairs Division in Rarotonga.” The operations of the mission is bolstered by many years close co-operation on bilateral and regional matters between MFAI and its Fijian counterparts. Cook Islands nationals attending the opening proudly welcomed the mission – a ‘home away from home’ amidst the hustle and bustle of Suva.
Further insights into the mission opening including photos can be viewed at https://www.facebook.com/FijianGovernment/posts/389447033219500
Queries regarding this media release can be directed to Ewan Cameron on Ph: 29347 or [email protected]