Tag Archives: anote tong

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).

President Tong questions moral values of Australian leaders

President Anote Tong has questioned the moral values of Australian Immigration Minister Peter Dutton and his colleague Prime Minister Tony Abbott over the joke made by Dutton about Pacific Island countries and their struggle with the rising sea levels.

Tong criticized the two Australian politicians over their insensitive joke about Pacific Islanders having no sense of time because “water is lapping at their door”. The remark made by Dutton was enjoyed by Abbott recklessly laughing unaware that a camera with a boom microphone was rolling above their heads.

“It shows a sense of moral irresponsibility quite unbecoming of leadership in any capacity,” President Tong said in an interview with ABC just minutes after touching down in Fiji, on his way back home from Papua New Guinea.

More saddened than outraged, Tong added “this is the issue we were talking about yesterday,” referring to the recently concluded talks in Port Moresby where climate change was effectively watered down by Australia (and New Zealand).

“I find that extremely sad, extremely disappointing that we are making jokes about a very serious issue,” he said.

Eastern tip of Temaiku village grapple with the encroaching seas

Eastern tip of Temaiku village on Tarawa atoll continues to grapple with the encroaching seas

Read more: Kiribati’s President lashes Peter Dutton for sea-levels joke

The video of Minister Dutton making the joke with Prime Minister Abbott laughing along had gone viral over the web and has created an outrage by many including several Pacific Island leaders.

Marshall Island’s Foreign Minister, Tony de Brum voiced his dismay over Twitter about the Australian Ministers joking about sea level rise in the Pacific: “Next time waves are battering my home and my grandkids are scared, I’ll ask Peter Dutton to come over, and we’ll see if he is still laughing.”

Also on Twitter, the Governor of Papua New Guinea province of Oro expressed his disappointment at Prime Minister Abbott laughing along to the joke: “ABBOTT MUST APOLOGIZE FOR INSENSITIVITY TOWARDS ALL FOR LAUGHING AT CLIMATE CHANGE. Remove him next elections Australia, you deserve better.”

Meanwhile, climate group 350.org had written a letter to Prime Minister Abbott expressing their disappointment to the way Australia is treating an issue which concerns the life of Pacific islanders. They also demanded that Immigration Minister Dutton step down from office after the disgraceful joke he made on Friday morning.

Pacific Island Countries mainly the Small Island Developing States such as Kiribati, Marshall Islands and Tuvalu have been struggling for more than a decade to cope with the impacts of sea-level rise caused by climate change. The impacts include inundation of villages, sea-water intrusion to their source of drinking water and the inability to grow food crops to name but a few.

Read more: Pacific leaders respond to Australian Minister’s sea level remarks.