The subjects which have become tradition at Forums also got a rerun with a lot of emphasis on climate change but hardly a mention of Fiji.
The outgoing Forum chairman Henry Puna said the Pacific felt frustrated overlooked, ignored and undervalued by years of inaction on gloabl warming by developed nations.
The incoming chairman, Christopher Loeak of the Marshalls said he would drown in the rising sea levels rather than being forced to move from his home.
Speaker:Sean Dorney, Australia Network Pacific Correspondent
DORNEY: The second section of the arrival, they had to give away the canoes and they turned up in cars, but the second section of it was walking along a very long, probably 150 metres of woven palm frond mats that had been made over recent weeks by Marshall Islands women and as they walked along those palm fronds mats, the walk way was lined with high school students, female high school students dressed in dresses made up of the Marshall Islands flag and right at the end in the last few places they went through, the flags that were being waved by these girls, were the flags of the Forum member countries, including incidentally the flag of Fiji and then once they did arrive at the Forum opening venue, which was in the forecourt of the Parliament here in Majuro, in the Marshall Islands, there was a rather spectacular dance by islanders from Kwajalein atoll and we were told that this particular dance had been rarely performed outside of Kwajalein and also never performed outside of the Marshall Islands.
And it was after all of that, we finally got to the official speeches and as you said, Henry Puna, the outgoing chairman, the Prime Minister of the Cook Islands, did strongly emphasis this issue of climate change and he congratulated the Marshall Islands for choosing the theme of this Forum which is marshalling the Pacific response to the climate challenge.
COUTTS: Well, it was a bit impassioned the speech that was given, but Henry Puna is saying that the Pacific felt, as I said in the introduction frustrated, overlooked, ignored and undervalued by years of inaction on global warming by developed nations. So what are they actually calling for?
DORNEY: Well, there's going to be this Majuro declaration on climate change leadership that they've been talking quite a bit about. We did try yesterday at the Small Islands press conference, after the Small Island States had their meeting yesterday morning. We did try at that press conference what was actually in the meeting yesterday morning. we did try at the press conference what was actually in the Majuro declaration, but we were told we would have to wait until after the leaders retreat in the issue of the communique tomorrow to find out exactly what was going to be in this Majuro declaration.
But Henry Puna, as you said did speak rather passionately. He said that apart from being overlooked, ignored and undervalued, the years of inaction by the countries that were most capable of doing something about mitigation measures had left the Pacific Island leaders absolutely disappointed and dissatisfied and as you also mentioned, the incoming Chairman, President of the Marshall Islands, spoke equally passionately about it. He said that to Pacific Islanders land was their home, they're heritage and their identity in the way that the English language could not capture. This is my country he said and I will stay here. If the water comes, it comes.
COUTTS: That's a sad statement, but I'm just wondering, getting off climate change and perhaps onto Fiji, not a lot of talk about Fiji, which was anticipated?
DORNEY: No, there was very little mention of it. There were three speeches last night, the first one by Neroni Slade, the Secretary-General of the Forum, and in his reasonably lengthy speech, there was just one brief mention of Fiji. All he said was that the Forum foreign ministers had made a visit to Fiji in April, and they would be reporting to the leaders. That was about it. He didn't go onto mention the fact that he had predicted that there would be a second visit to Fiji, prior to this Forum leaders meeting, that that second visit did not happen and the Fiji government said they weren't aware of it.
And on the issue of Fiji, we have heard repeatedly from Commodore Bainimarama that he's not really interested in the Pacific Islands Forum anymore. The second reference in that whole series of speeches. Henry Puna didn't mention it at all. But Christopher Loeak, the President of the Marshall Islands, did say that, and that was a very brief mention. which he said striving for a regional unity is especially important in complex political issues, including our response to the recent positive developments in Fiji.
That was it. He didn't go any further in what these positive developments were, but it's obviously a reference to the Constitution and the plans for elections in September, next year.
He did Geraldine, in his speech, he did go on to talk about the other regional organisations that are being set up, the sub-regional organisations, and we suspect he's also making a reference to Commodore Bainimarama's new Pacific Islands Development Forum, when he said that he wasn't opposed to increasing numbers of different organisations for a minute or two on these sub-regional organisations, not Commodore Bainimarama's, but the sub-regional organisations, like the Melanesian Spearhead Group and the Polynesian Leaders Group, saying that he didn't think they deflected from the importance of the Forum, but only added to it.