The University of the South Pacific recently received a courtesy visit from the Cook Islands Prime Minister, Honourable Mark Brown.
USP Deputy Vice-Chancellor Regional Campuses and Global Engagements, Dr Giulio Masasso Tu’ikolongahau Paunga and Deputy Vice-Chancellor Education, Professor Jito Vanualailai, received the Cook Islands Prime Minister and his delegation that included Cook Islands Associate Minister for Finance and Foreign affairs, Honourable Tingika Elikana, Cook Islands High Commissioner to Fiji Jim Armistead, Secretary for Foreign Affairs and Immigration (MFAI) Tepaeru Herrmann and Development Cooperation Adviser at Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, Patricia Sachs- Cornish.
USP Vice-Chancellor and President Professor Pal Ahluwalia virtually joined the briefing with the Prime Minister from the USP Samoa Campus and welcomed Honourable Brown and his delegation to USP.
Honourable Prime Minister Brown highlighted that he and the Honourable Associate Minister for Finance and Foreign Affairs, Tingika Elikana were USP Alumni, having completed their MBA programme at the USP Rarotonga Campus.
“I must say that the satellite services at USP are so critical for countries like ours. To be able to deliver high-level tertiary qualifications like the MBA programme in the country is a great credit to USP and the Cook Islands Campus staff,” he added.
The Cook Islands Prime Minister also underlined that they are excited to have more programmes offered at the Rarotonga Campus to make it more accessible to people living in the Cooks Islands.
“We are also looking at developing a close partnership with USP as part of our initiatives that we are promoting at this year’s Leaders Forum (PIFS) the implementation of the 2050 strategy, and part of that is that we have come up with a Pacific construct of Pacific partnerships,” Honourable Prime Minister Brown said.
He added that USP would play a critical role in the Pacific and an area in which the Cook Islands has been involved for several years. “It is an emerging industry that will allow us to diversify away from just tourism, which is our deep-sea minerals industry. At the moment, we are gathering significant amounts of data information on things like the geomorphology of the sea floor, the geology of the minerals we have, and information on the environment and biodiversity.
We are looking to establish a Centre of Excellence on the understanding of deep ocean sites, and to have that established in our country in partnership with USP and other research institutions involved in such research and activities,” the Prime Minister highlighted.
He said, “In a small country like us, to play a leading role in the understanding of our deep ocean as part of the Blue Pacific Ocean as part of the Oceans States, we look forward to progressing those discussions into partnership agreements that we can use to foster and grow this increasing body of knowledge and understanding that we are doing through our exploration work that is being undertaken right now.”
USP Vice-Chancellor Professor Pal Ahluwalia pointed out that scientists have a divided sense; on the subject of deep-sea mining.
“There needs to be a lot more research done, and I guess it’s on that basis that I would welcome any initiative that allows us to gather more research into deep-sea mining. We should try and see how we can firm up this initiative, and I welcome any proposal from the Cook Islands government,” Professor Ahluwalia added.
Other areas of collaboration that were discussed were Ocean Stewardship, the importance of being in charge of our stories and research, and the need for an ICT network that is required to strengthen the delivery of services.
Honourable Prime Minister Brown was also given a tour of USP’s Japan ICT Multipurpose Centre and a brief on the ICT infrastructure before he toured the USP Marine Campus in Laucala Bay, Suva.