Outgoing Forum Secretary General and former Cook Islands Prime Minister, Henry Puna says, ‘leadership is something that can only be enriched by experience; and experience can only be enriched by the lessons that we learn through life.’

Puna made the comment last night in his remarks as the region bid farewell to one of the true sons of the Blue Pacific

“While the last three years have not been easy, it has been a resounding learning curve for me. I will always cherish my time here in Suva at the helm of the Forum Secretariat, and the opportunity to serve the region as a whole.””

Reflecting on the start of his journey, Puna noted, “To have been bestowed the confidence of our Leaders in 2021 to serve as your Secretary General, has been an incredible journey both personally and professionally. This role and position is not for the faint-hearted. It has pushed me to my limits both physically and mentally; it has required me to dig deep into my political experience, to strategically assess emerging issues; it has tested my diplomatic skills to the wire, and it has forced me to be increasingly decisive and assertive.”

He acknowledged the collective effort, saying, “I am so very glad to have been able to travel this journey with the support of so many of you here. The Forum and its achievements are a testament to the investment, drive, and participation of our Members; the collegiality and support of our sister CROP agencies and other regional agencies; the collaboration and engagement of our partners; and the heart and strength of our Secretariat.”

Addressing the Leaders of the Pacific Islands Forum, he expressed his gratitude. “Meitaki ma’ata for your wisdom and leadership in the last three years. The solidarity and unity of the region must never be taken for granted, and I trust that the journey forward will build on the challenges we have overcome together.”

To the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat in Suva, he said, “I thank each of you for your time, your collegiality, and your guidance to me and my team here over the course of my tenure.”

Turning to his CROP colleagues, he said, “Vinaka vakalevu for your willingness to find a way forward to deliver better and more efficiently for our Pacific people.”

To the Forum Dialogue Partners, he emphasised, “Without your support, our vision cannot become a reality. Work with us as we steer our canoe towards our 2050 vision.”

He then addressed the Forum Observers and Development Partners, stating, “We work for the same region and serve the same people. Let us continue to build on our comparative advantages as agencies and institutions in service to our region.”

To the Civil Society Organisations, SG Puna advised, “Continue to hold your leadership and your secretariat to account on the commitment and decisions of your Leaders. Do not shy away from this role.”

To the private sector, he urged, “You are the engine that drives our economies, continue to be innovative and bold.”

To the Pacific youth, he declared, “We must stop referring to you as the Leaders of tomorrow. You are the Leaders of today. You have brought vitality to my role, and I am comforted in the knowledge that our region’s future is in your capable hands.”

Finally, addressing his team at the Secretariat, Puna said, “You have been a steady source of wisdom, energy, and advice over the last three years. I thank each and every one of you for your support, your time, your patience, and collegiality with me.”

In his concluding remarks, SG Puna turned to his successor, “To the incoming Secretary General, Baron Waqa – I pass to you an excellent team of professionals, colleagues, and friends in the form of the Secretariat. I wish you well in your tenure, Sir, and trust that I have every wish for your success in the years to come.” .