Ms Afasene Iosefa
It was 9am Friday morning 29 June that all the Polynesian Leaders (taina Polenisia) left the main wharf on Nivaga III for their ‘RETREAT’ at Amatuku.
All PLG leaders wore the same shirts of mixed blue and white colours with black long trousers and Fijian sulus. There was a very tight security down at the main wharf from the Police Force when the leaders boarded the vessel on their way to Amatuku and even onboard. The patrol boat ‘Te Mataili followed all the way to Amatuku after the Nivaga III.
On arrival at Amatuku, the Prime Minister and wife, Deputy Prime Minister and wife and all PLG leaders, together with other Senior Government Officers boarded one of the barges and were met by a flotilla of canoes crewed by Nanumean young men and women singing beautiful songs ‘te mauluulu’ and escorted them to the wharf. The Polynesian Leaders were really impressed impressed and touched by this traditional welcoming that was accorded to them.
At the wharf, they were met by the CEO of the Tuvalu Maritime Training Institute, Capt. Teitimani Simeona, and Chief Engineer of the Institute Taimitasi Paelate and escorted the delegates to the locally built guest house located to the lagoon side of the islet.
There they were warmly welcomed by the Master of Ceremony, the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports, Dr. Tufoua Panapa with a welcoming speech, after which everyone was served with lovely coconut drinks of Amatuku. The leaders also signed the Institute visitors’ book.
From there, all the leaders were escorted to stand outside the ‘Malae Polenisia’ where they were given a pair of scissors each to cut the ribbons to enter the ‘Malae Polenisia to plant the coconut trees.
There were six of them planting the coconut trees; the Rt. Hon. Enele Sosene Sopoaga, and leaders from American Samoa, Samoa, Tokelau, Tonga, and Wallis and Futuna.
While planting, there was a big laughter coming from the onlookers and those witnessing the plantating of these coconut trees especially when the Master of Ceremony Dr. Panapa said, “It is very nice to see you all planting those coconuts and I am sure in years ahead when you visit again our country, you will find those coconut trees all dead.” Everyone gave a big applause after this exciting event.
Moving on from there was the unveiling of the name ‘MALAE POLENISIA’ by the Chairman of the PLG Summit, Rt. Hon. Enele Sosene Sopoaga as in the photo below.
There were also some entertainments, performed by the beautiful young girls of Amatuku.
After the unveiling of the ‘Malae Polenisia’, all the leaders moved to the Faimalaga Falekaupule to begin their RETREAT (formal work), that began with a word of prayer led by the Lieutenant Governor of American Samoa, Lemanu Mauga.
The Formal Meeting of the Polynesian Leaders began with few remarks from the Chair who said, “firstly I want to thank all staff members of the Institute for their kind hospitality in welcoming us. Thanks also to the Master of the Nivaga III and all her crew for ensuring the safe arrival of leaders on Amatuku.
As the Permanent Secretary was saying earlier on, that this islet had a particular significant. It was here that the first Secondary School for Tuvalu (Ellice Islands) those days started under the London Missionary Society (LMS) before it moved eventually to another island.
The name Amatuku has a symbolic meaning. ‘Ama’ the outrigger of the canoe, ‘tuku’ we are moving forward, that’s symbolic rather. We have to take up the battle and move forward our canoe and paddle together.
The name of this house as we can see is Faimalaga meeting hall.
Hon Faimalaga Luka was Minister of Education at the time this hall was constructed n 1994, and it means ‘to a traveller or always travel.’ “I know the Hon. Minister at that time, he used to like travelling and he could travel very, very long trip, said the Rt. Hon Prime Minister. “I know very well because I was the Permanent Secretary then of the Ministry of Education, when and I liked that Minister because we always travelled all over the world. But that’s the meaning of this hall, very symbolic, because it represents the graduates, the trainees from this school to always travel and look for money for their families.”
Excellencies, our work, we have achieved quite a lot of the past three day. We have the Climate Change ‘Sautalaga’ by PLG leaders and our experts and our officials so thank you very much, and on Thursday 28 June, we have extensive discussions on the issues that can be for the PLG attention in plenary. I want to thank you again.”
“Now I also want to acknowledge our leader Tuilaepa, Prime Minister of Samoa and his delegation, unfortunately they have left but I am sure their legs, two of the legs are still in the Polynesian Leaders’ Group. But here, we sit, we were very privileged in order to be advised of the experiences of Prime Minister Tuilaepa. I think we really should have appreciated that opportunity, so we have to give him a big clap of hands.”
‘And we also recognize, we have our colleagues and our friends from French Polynesia, from Cooks Islands, from Niue, but the spirit of their solidarity is felt amongst us and we hope for sometimes they can join our meeting. We also say on behalf of the Cabinet of Tuvalu, all the Ministers, all the leaders, all the secretaries, thank you very much for your support, your guidance and leading us through so that we have a proper arrangement and programme for the meeting of leaders.
Excellencies, we have gone through the discussions yesterday, looking at the picture of the PLG, first the membership of the members who have expressed interest to be in the group, Maori and Hawaii and others and of course we fully endorsed the admission of these Polynesian Group to the PLG Forum Group. We also look into the draft charter and agree that we perhaps come to have a look at it, the final text, the meeting in Nauru so that we can finalized the arrangements for the Secretariat, also look at the possible of funding for the Secretariat but we would like to note and welcome the assistance of the Government of Samoa to start off the work of the secretariat in Apia, Samoa with provisions provideD from sources as an interim arrangement. Those are the main procedural matters that we looked at but also endorsed and approved the Governor of American Samoa to be the Chair of the 9th PLG Summit and also Pagopago to be the venue of the 9th PLG Summit.”
So from there, the Chair of the 8th PLG Summit, Rt. Hon. Enele Sosene Sopoaga opened the floor for their comments. All the leaders went through the Declaration of Amatuku page by page before endorsing.
After endorsing the Annex of the Amatuku Declaration on Climate Change and Oceans, all leaders gave a big applause of hands for the work that have been done.
Rt. Hon. Sopoaga said, “I want on your behalf before we end our formal work to extend our sincere appreciation to all our officials, all our staff, our experts, who have been so tired, supportive to the work of PLG leaders a few days ago, but also here in Amatuku.
I want also to thank the Hon. Minister for Education for allowing our ‘RETREAT’ to take place here at Faimalaga Falekaupule here in Amatuku, not forgetting of course the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry, the CEO of the Institute, and all staff members and the Maritime Trainees. Thank you all for welcoming us here in Amatuku for the programme, the planting of coconut trees and also the unveiling of the ‘Malae Polenisia’. The people of Tuvalu, the Government and all Members of Parliament have lot of pride, lot of satisfaction for your support leaders. “
Rt. Hon. Sopoaga then invited the Lt. Governor of American Samoa for his remarks.
“Thank you for the opportunity given to me. On behalf of Excellencies, Ministers, Ulu o Tokelau, and of course the Ministers from different islands of the Pacific, we thank you very much for your leadership. We appreciate your patient with us, we appreciate all the guidance and the comfort of the continuation of the leaders around the different islands of the Pacific in terms of getting our nations moving around especially during this time of the ‘Climate Change Sautalaga’, and other issues in terms of communications and transportation, Health and Education and others.
We thank you very much for that, and of course the people of Tuvalu for taking care of us, feeding us, I think too much feeding of the representatives and delegations from the different island nations. And we thank you for taking us to the other islet of Tuvalu, we appreciate the tour and especially your Excellency and islands of Tuvalu.”
There was a big laughter around the table especially when he said, “thank you and we appreciate you and the people of Tuvalu in hosting this 8th PLG Summit and we hope that next year it’s a hard thing to feel but we’ll be coming and see you, give us some payments and some money so we can do a good job, it is the same job that you have done during the 8th PLG Summit. Again we thank you and we hope that your Honourable, the Government and the people of Tuvalu have many blessings from our Heavenly Father. Faafetai.
The Chair then replied, “Malo faafetai the Governor of American Samoa. We really hear you and also we hear the expression of thanks and appreciation from the leaders of the Polynesia ‘taina Polenisia’ around the table and also who are supporting the Polynesian Leaders, those who are also not here supporting the spirit as well.”
In return to his jokes, Rt. Hon. Sopoaga said, “but for money, I think you asked the right question because we have the Deputy Prime Minister of Tuvalu, he’s the Minister of Finance and you may have heard Tuvalu’s Trust Fund under his care, he’s doing rather well. So I think the request is well timed.”
The leaders allowed the Secretariat to polish a little bit the amendments they have done, and the signing of the Amatuku Delcaration by all leaders was carried out at a dinner hosted by the Rt. Hon. Sopoaga and Madamme Salilo Sopoaga on Friday night at the ‘Toa o te Namo.’
Before proceeding for the lunch, the Chair asked the Deputy Prime Minister, Hon. Maatia Toafa to close their RETREAT (Formal Meeting) with a word of prayer.
Lunch continued from there offered by the Tuvalu Maritime Training Institute which the Prime Minister said that, “the Institute prepared the food based on the quality of International Shipping, it is not only the quality but the quantity as well.”
The Polynesian Leaders had their lunch inside the Faimalaga Falekaupule, while the rest had theirs at a tent also provided by the Institute.
After lunch was the launching of Amatuku Solar Project where the ribbon was cut by Tuvalu’s Prime Minister, Rt. Hon. Enele Sosene Sopoaga and witnessed by all the Polynesian Leaders and those present at the scene.
All the Leaders were then escorted to the Guest House before making their way down to the wharf to go to the ship. On their way down to the wharf there were women and a few young men already singing a lot of beautiful songs on the wharf.
The CEO of TMTI, Chief Engineer, staff, trainees and families were all at the wharf to bid farewell to all the Polynesian Leaders making their way down to the MV. Nivaga III.
The ship departed the islet before 3pm heading back to Fogafale and when arriving at the main wharf, there were a lot and lively songs and ‘fatele’ sung by Funafuti women who welcomed back the leaders from their RETREAT held down at Amatuku.
All the leaders were touched by the spirit of enjoyment and ‘fiafiaga’ performed by the Funafuti women who presented all the leaders with garlands and new sulus of different colours and printed on the ‘sulus’ is: The 8th PLG Summit, Tuvalu, 2018. They were also treated with coconut drinks.
In return Prime Minister Rt. Hon. Sopoaga thanked and congratulated all the Funafuti women for a lovely and wonderful welcoming back performed by them and at the same time extended the invitation for them to attend a dinner party that evening at the ‘Toa ote Namo.’
Lieutenant Governor of American Samoa, Lemanu Mauga, represented on behalf of all the leaders to thank the Funafuti women for such a wonderful welcoming performance staged by them down at the main wharf.
KMT News personnel who were at the RETREAT from the beginning to the end, witnessed it as a very successful one. The leaders really enjoyed themselves and even those who had passes to join the RETREAT down at Amatuku islet.
The RETREAT would be of good memories of the 8th PLG Summit hosted by Tuvalu and would never be forgotten in the hearts and minds of all Tuvaluans. YES, Tuvalu you are very small in land areas, but very big deep in our hearts. Actions are important than words.