President Tong bows out of Forum with ‘Star of Melanesia’

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President Anote Tong has bowed-out of the Pacific Islands Forum, in what is deemed his last forum meeting as President of tiny Pacific Island nation of Kiribati, with an honorary award called the ‘Companion of the Order of the Star of Melanesia’ (CSM) and $5 million PNG-Kina (AUD$2.5 million) to aid efforts in combating climate change impacts to his low-lying atoll nation.

President Tong who is now in his final months of his 12-year term in office received the honorary award – ‘Star of Melanesia’ last Thursday from Papua New Guinea’s Acting Governor General and Speaker of Parliament Theodore Zurenuoc. The high-level occasion was witnessed by leaders of the Pacific Islands Forum who were in Port Moresby for the 46th Leaders Forum.

The Companion of the Star of Melanesia is awarded for distinguished service of a high degree to Papua New Guinea and Melanesia, sustained over a period of fifteen years.

A statement from the PNG government say the award is bestowed on Tong for his services to the Pacific region and strong bilateral relations with the region and PNG.

Tong was humbled with such recognition saying he was truly honoured to receive such a symbolic award which he says inspires him further that the Pacific is in good stewardship as long as the spirit of brotherhood and the Pacific Way continue to prevail.

Although Kiribati is not a member of the Melanesian grouping, Tong has in the past been invited by the Melanesian Spearhead Group where his thoughts and contributions on contentious issues were consulted.

The president who returns today from the recently concluded 46th Pacific Islands forum meeting in Port Moresby brings with him a $5 million cheque (PNG-Kina) that will go towards Kiribati’s ongoing efforts to combat climate change impacts.

Tong will leave office early next year and will walk away with a number of awards and recognitions under his belt. This year alone, Tong was presented with the Doctor of Laws from the University of the South Pacific and the Sunhak Peace Prize.

The Premier of Niue, Toke Talagi, also received the Star of Melanesia award while Prime Minister of Samoa, Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi, received the Grand Companion of the Order of Logohu (GCL) in recognition of his long service to the region as one of the longest serving Prime Minister.

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Previous recipients of The Companion of the Star of Melanesia includes Vice Admiral Sir Timothy Laurence, KCVO, CB (Husband of the Princess Royal – The Princess Anne) and Camilla the Duchess of Cornwall (Wife of Prince of Wales – Prince Charles).

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