WELCOMING COMMENTS ON THE OCCASION

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OF THE
7TH ECONOMIC SUMMIT OF THE
SMALLER ISLAND STATES
12 September 1997
BY
HON. SIR GEOFFREY HENRY, KBE
PRIME MINISTER

Kia Orana:

It is a pleasure to welcome the Smaller Island States delegations for another Summit in the same room as the first historic Summit held in January, 1992.

I intend to place a brass plaque on the wall to commemorate each such gathering, including lists of those Heads of Delegations attending and with generous space remaining to include many such future reunions.

Indeed, I am pleased to note that three of the Heads of Delegation present in 1992 —H.E. Hon Kinza Clodumar, the Rt. Hon Bikenibeu Paeniu, and myself -- are present this morning.

Also present in 1992 were the Hon Vivian Young from Nine and the Hon Teato Teannaki from Kiribati

It is a special pleasure to welcome two new faces -- Hon Frank Lui from Niue and H. E. Hon Teburoro Tito from Kiribati.

I wish to extend a special welcome to three observers: H. E. Hon Imata Kabua, President of the Marshall Islands; H. E. Hon Gaston Flosse, President of French Polynesia; H. E. Alik Alik, the Federated States of Micronesia's Ambassador to Fiji. Welcome, Your Excellencies.

We are also fortunate to have present as an observer the representative of Australia, Mr. David Apps, First Secretary to the Office of the High Commissioner in Wellington. Welcome.

And, of course, we are pleased to have present the distinguished Heads of our Regional Organisations. Welcome, gentlemen.

And, to all of you, Leaders, Officials, Observers, welcome to Rarotonga. May your stay be a pleasant and productive one.

While we call this a "summit" - which it most certainly is - that word does not convey the traditional informality of these discussions.

Nor do we Smaller Island States Leaders need to adjourn for a "Retreat" for here, in the newly refurbished Rarotongan Resort, we are on retreat.

The Smaller Islands States are a very special sub-group of a larger group. While each of our nations is striving to be stronger, we recognise that it is through togetherness that we can be strongest.

Throughout the years when I coached rugby, I would tell the players that our team was only as strong as its weakest player. Whomever that was, his skills had to be improved if we wanted to win.

As the smallest Members of the South Pacific Forum, we five have a few disadvantages. These were recognised in 1991 and, by and large, they remain today. They are:

To the extent that these are still the case, we five are the weakest Members of the Forum Island Countries and, so, it behooves both the Forum and ourselves to seek ways to overcome handicaps. Just as a small rugby player may excel in, say, running or kicking or a large, slow player may be superb at tackling in the scrums, so can each of our nations find special strengths that suit our circumstances.

As Islanders with extended families, we are, aware of the values derived from mutual support. Within our families, we may not always agree. We may each strike out on our own to one degree or another. But we think about how to help the others - and they of us - and do so when we can.

In the course of six Summits, much has been considered and, on the surface of it, the results are modest. But, beneath superficial appearances, a great deal has been achieved:

Every Sunday, I publish a short column in a local weekly called The Press. This week I chose the Smaller Island States as my theme. In the course of drafting this week's submittal, I came across some interesting statistics concerning the current membership:

As I contemplated these and other facts, I began to wonder if Smaller Island States might not be a misnomer. And that, of course, is the purpose of our discussions today and through the weekend: how to become larger economically.

Through the goodwill of other nations and international organisations, through self-reliance and mutual support and with the blessing of God, we five can become team members on a par in our own way with the larger Forum Island Countries. Of that I am certain.

May God bless our deliberations.

Kia Orana.

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