Fiji’s Prime Minister, Sitiveni Rabuka, is confident he’s repaired relations with Kiribati after his recent state visit there.
On Friday, Rabuka led a high-level delegation to Tarawa – and key on the agenda was Kiribati’s membership of the Pacific Islands Forum.
Kiribati’s withdrawal from the Forum last July fractured regional unity and solidarity.
President Taneti Maamau refused to attend the annual Leaders’ gathering in Suva due to what he claimed was failure by the PIF to address concerns of equity, equality and inclusiveness in a number of key decisions including the appointment of the current Secretary General.
Fiji’s new coalition government, holding chairmanship of the Pacific Islands Forum, in consultation with Kiribati Government initiated a state visit to repair damaged relations amongst other priorities.
Before the bilateral meeting, the Fijian Government delegation performed an age-old traditional practice of ‘boka’ to Maamau and his people to seek forgiveness for the ‘wrongs of the past’ and to commit the Fijian Government to kinship and solidarity.
PacNews reports that on accepting the apology, Maamau commended Rabuka and his government for taking a bold step to restore the Pacific Way of trust, respect and understanding.
“Kiribati has truly felt the brotherly love that translates into the Pacific Way of acceptable, reconciliation, peace and unity,” he said.
“These values and principles have not only been the shared building blocks of our histories and cultures but will also be the pillars of the future that we aspire towards as a blue Pacific region. Without doubt the past has brought before us unprecedented challenges and Kiribati has been fortunate to have Fiji by its side as a strong development partner.”
Fiji, Maamau said, has always opened its doors to the people of Kiribati including students and working nationals.
His Facebook page later stated: “At the meeting, both leaders acknowledged the strong kinship shared by Fiji and Kiribati, which has been founded on strong cultural identity, mutual respect and friendship.
“The two leaders reaffirmed the need to collectively work in unity and promote regional cooperation as highlighted in the 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific Continent.
“The Fijian leader said the ceremony symbolised the Pacific Way of resolving regional differences amongst members.”
“It is the Pacific Way. When we deviate and adopt other ways of thinking that are not regional, we tend to easily offend one another. But when we think alike, like the Pacific Way, it’ so easy to repair the damage that perhaps would lead us astray from the Forum. It was significant and that is why I preferred to have the Fijian ceremonies of the ‘boka’ and ‘sevusevu’ and the apology,” Rabuka said.