Honourable Tuilaepa Lupesoliai Neioti Aiono Dr Sa’ilele Malielegaoi, Samoan PM and Chair of Pacific Islands Forum during the opening of the Research Week at the Laucala Campus.
The Prime Minister of Samoa and Chair of the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF), Honourable Tuilaepa Lupesoliai Neioti Aiono Dr Sa’ilele Malielegaoi officially opened The University of the South Pacific’s (USP) Research Week on 27 August 2018 at the University’s Laucala Campus in Fiji.
Hon. Malielegaoi said that USP has contributed towards the shaping of the Framework for Pacific Regionalism (FPR) through intellectual dialogue and interface with people who are actively engaged in redefining the way the Framework should work.
“We see USP as having a multi-faceted role in the Pacific Region, besides its core function as the provider of quality higher education and research in the region,” Hon. Malielegaoi said.
While stating that USP plays a significant role as a regional organisation, Hon. Malielegaoi said that the Pacific Plan Review of 2013 pays tribute to USP as one of the few examples of success in Pacific Regionalism.
He added that as part of its mission as being the region’s premier quality university, USP also plays an active and key role in regional engagement through the mechanism of the Council of Regional Organisations of the Pacific (CROP), leading the CROP ICT and Human Resources Development (HRD) Working Groups.
He also noted that USP also participates in other CROP Working Groups, attends major meeting of regional ministers and PIF leaders and participates in Smaller Island States Leaders Meeting, Polynesian Leaders Group and other similar meetings.
Talking about the Research Week, which is from 27 – 31 August 2018, Hon. Malielegaoi said that the event is an important part of the 50th Anniversary of the regional institution.
As the outgoing chair of the PIF, Hon. Malielegaoi highlighted that 2018 has been about advocacy and deepening of the Blue Pacific identity as the core driver of collective action for advancing our leaders’ vision under the FPR, and added that he believed that the Pacific has made many huge strikes in this regard.
“We are all aware that the global geo-political landscape has shifted economically in the Pacific, now strategically viewed by some as the Indo-Pacific region, is at the centre of global trade,” Hon. Malielegaoi emphasised.
He noted that the Pacific is once again attracting attention as a medium of strategic competition and cooperation, adding that regional assets provide leverage for advancing the Forum’s strategic, political and economic interests.
“Given the global challenges facing the Pacific region, this context calls for focused political discussions on priorities for establishing the foundations of our Blue Pacific Economy, Security and Sustainability that will drive the region’s development,” Hon, Malielegaoi stated.
It also demands a long term commitment to ensuring a strong collective voice and clear regional positions and actions on those issues vital to the development as a region and as the Blue Pacific Continent.
Furthermore it also calls for inspired leadership and long term foreign policy commitment to act as one blue continent.
He acknowledged that the words of the late Professor Epeli Hau’ofa “Oceania is us, we are the sea, we are the ocean” are more relevant today than ever before, for the people as the stewards of the blue Pacific continent.
Members of the audience during the opening of the Research Week at USP.
Hon. Malielegaoi said that the new political landscape and the blue Pacific narrative provides an opportunity to build and strengthen the forms, advocacies, successes to deliver on regional priorities under the FPR.
“I am very happy to say as my tenure as forum chair, I tried hard to make every effort and pursued every opportunity to use the Blue Pacific in one ocean continent as the central narrative to inspire stronger Pacific Regionalism,” he further added.
Hon. Malielegaoi extended his congratulations to the University for its fifty (50) years of successful expansion and consolidation and also extended his sincere appreciation to Professor Rajesh Chandra, Vice-Chancellor and President, for his significant contributions to the University on the eve of his end of tenure.
He also advised prospective students that if they want to succeed, they should try the new paths of success, and hence look at USP for these new paths.
Dame Meg Taylor, Secretary-General of Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat (PIFS) said that the 50th Anniversary of USP is indeed an honourable masthead of Pacific regionalism and building of its people, place and economies.
“Since its establishment in 1968, USP has remained one of the region’s greatest example of regionalism, and the benefits we share in pooling of our collective resources,” Dame Taylor said.
She informed that in 2017, Hon. Malielegaoi as the Forum Chair and the leaders of the PIF endorsed the Blue Pacific Identity as the core driver of collective action for advancing the leaders’ vision under the FPR.
“At its very core, the Blue Pacific identity is about the collective empowerment of the Pacific people to determine their own development agenda. During his tenure as the Chair of PIF, the Prime Minister has consistently advocated for and represented the blue pacific in the face of an extremely crowded and complex Pacific region,” she acknowledged.
Mr Winston Thompson, Pro-Chancellor and Chair of USP Council, in welcoming the Hon. Prime Minister, said that the research week is dedicated towards not only celebrating USP’s past achievements but also to commit USP’s aspirations in research and innovation.
Mr Thompson noted that most of the research carried out at USP is focused on the priorities of its Member Countries and is organised into one or more of the University’s seven (7) Strategic Research Themes.
“Interdisciplinary research is highly valued at the University, which requires that staff focus on key areas of opportunity and challenge for the Pacific and its people,” Mr Thompson said.
He added that innovation is also strongly promoted and encouraged at USP. Innovation is focused on producing immediate solutions and outcomes for Member Countries and communities through the use of local resources and traditional knowledge in combination with advanced skills and high tech tools to create new knowledge, approaches, and devices.
In thanking Hon. Malielegaoi, Professor Chandra said that his presence was a humbling one for the University.
“I am sure that your inspirational advice will greatly motivate the bright minds of the future researchers and innovators of the region and help USP shape its next stage of development,” Professor Chandra said.
He also acknowledged the Samoan Government’s profound confidence in USP and in its programmes which can be seen through the Samoan Government’s active engagement in various programmes such as the Science Teachers Accelerated Programme (STAP) that was pioneered in 2014 at USP’s Alafua Campus as a joint initiative between the Government of Samoa and USP with a cohort of sixty (60) teachers sponsored by the Samoan Government.
Professor Chandra thanked the Prime Minister for his support, wise counsel and co-operation and for all the courtesies extended to him during his term which comes to and end at the end of this year.
The official opening was followed by a lunch at the University’s Pacific Fusion Restaurant.
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