Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sa’ilele Malielegaoi’s leadership of the 48th Pacific Islands Forum Leaders Meeting in Apia has been hailed as the driving force behind a successful meeting last week.
The praises come from the Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, Dame Meg Taylor, who told the Samoa Observer the Pacific region is blessed to have someone of Tuilaepa’s caliber.
She described the Chairman of the Forum as a “formidable leader” and “an asset to the Pacific Island Forums”.
She said Tuilaepa's collegiality brought Pacific Leaders together to have “tough conversations” on a number of complex issues.
“He is a formidable leader and the respect that he commands is undeniable,” said Dame Meg.
“He’s got a great sense of humour but it is his collegiality to bring Pacific leaders to have tough conversations that I see as a big asset for us.”
In chairing the Forum, Tuilaepa and Dame Meg will work hand in hand for the next 12 months to drive the Forum’s agenda.
“It is very important for us to work closely with the Chairman and his team so we can achieve some of the issues that we need work on.”
The Leaders retreat last Friday was lengthy.
It went well into overtime in fact, ending after sunset at Taumeasina Island Resort.
The closing press conference did not take place until after 8pm.
Dame Meg said there were a lot of issues on the agenda.
With the communiqué, she said there are always issues but the document for this year was well negotiated among the 18 countries present. She said the opinions and thoughts of the leaders were well reflected in the outcome statement.
“There’s room for good interpretation for issues, the lengthy meeting is due to the complex issues,” she said.
“They had to discuss the language to capture what the leaders wanted and so they have had to redraft certain sections to reflect what they wanted.
“Part of this retreat was for them to have those conversations, it’s not a bureaucrat telling them what to do but this is what they want.”
Dame Meg added that the Samoan government and the people of Samoa did a phenomenal job as a host country.
“Everything was well organized, they did their job and we did ours and the teamwork was impressive,” she said.
“I cannot thank them enough for undivided attention put into making the forum a success, in terms of organizing.”
Dame Meg also noted the significance of the lowering of flags at the closing ceremony.
“When they lowered the Flag of Samoa and the flag of P.I.Fs, I shared this with my colleagues and the Secretariat that this flag represents all of the Pacific countries.
“This is about those who have a commitment to the common good of those in the Pacific nations, including Australia and New Zealand as we are part of a regional community.
“That is very important.
“There are challenges and the Secretariat’s role is to serve these countries and for the leaders to be given the leadership of finding regional issues that gives them that common voice.”
The Secretary General also told the Samoa Observer that Tuilaepa and all the Pacific Leaders will meet with Pope Francis on 11 November 2017, on their way to Bonn Germany for COP23.
“They will have a discussion with him on issues of stewardship,” she said.
“It’s important that it’s not about being Catholic, this is about the voice of the Holy father around issues of stewardship.
“It’s about the concerns for each other’s humanity and for us in the Pacific, the issues of the environment and how we as Pacific people, care for this Blue continent that we live in.”