The opening ceremony of the 38th Pacific Islands Forum Meeting was held yesterday with hundreds of students, guests and the general public turning out to greet guests.As reported by Fiji's Fiji Times Online, guests were welcomed at the Mala'e Pangai Lahi grounds in Tonga, the host of this year's Forum Meeting.
Particularly noted was the cheers and thunderous applause that was accorded to Fiji's interim Prime Minister, Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama, the military commander who staged a coup in December last year taking control of the government. This was a stark contrast to the "something of a leper" label given to him by New Zealand's Prime Minister, Helen Clark, who, along with Australian Foreign Affairs Minister, Alexander Downer, received a quiet reception.
While a foreign journalist described the Fiji PM's reception as "that accorded to a rock star", Commodore Bainimarama said that it was a sign that the Tongan people understood Fiji's situation.
Guests were treated to an almost two-hour ceremony of traditional welcome, songs and dances by the people of Tonga, despite the wet conditions.
The Queen Salote College girls entertained with a specially composed song for the event.