REMARKS: Farewell Reflections by the PIF SG, Henry Puna

16 May 2024

The Hon. Sitiveni Rabuka, the Prime Minister of the Republic of Fiji

The Honourable Viliame Gavoka, Deputy Prime Minister of the Republic of Fiji

Representatives of our Pacific Islands Forum Members

Representatives of the Diplomatic Corp

My colleague Heads of Agencies of the Council of Regional Organisations of the Pacific, and I acknowledge my brother Sefanaia Nawadra, Director General of SPREP who has travelled from Samoa.

Representatives of our civil society and private sector

Ladies and Gentlemen

My family who has travelled to be here with me this evening and in the coming day as I prepare to depart - my wife Akaiti and my sons Edwin and Henry and daughter-in-law Frances.

And importantly, my Secretariat Family here at the Pacific Islands Forum

How fast time travels when one is having fun!

I look around the room tonight and I am filled with a deep sense of gratitude and appreciation for the friendships, the challenges, the experiences, and the accomplishments that we have achieved together in the last 3 years. 

Leadership, I can say for certain, is something that can only be enriched by experience; and experience, can only be enriched by the lessons that we learn through life. 

While the last 3 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. 

Indeed, 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. 

I can say for certain and with great confidence that 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.

And I am so very glad to have been able to travel this journey with the support of so many of you here in the room – 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.

To the Leaders of the Pacific Islands Forum: meitaki ma’ata for your wisdom and leadership in the last 3 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 that we have overcome together in the last few years.

To the Pacific Islands Forum Missions here in Suva: 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. 

To my CROP colleagues: vinaka vakalevu for your willingness to find a way forward to deliver better and more efficiently for our Pacific people. 

To our Forum Dialogue Partners: without your support, our vision cannot become a reality. Work with us as we steer our canoe towards our 2050 vision. 

To our Forum Observers and Development Partners: 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 our Civil Society Organisations: 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 our private sector: you are the engine that drives our economies, continue to be innovative and bold. 

To our Pacific youth: 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.

Last and not least, to my senior management team and the staff here at the Secretariat: you have been a steady source of wisdom, energy, advice over the last 3 years. I thank each and every one of you for your support, your time, your patience and collegiality with me. 

To the incoming Secretary General, His Excellency 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. 

Prime Minister, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen

Meitaki Ma’ata, Vinaka Vakalevu and thank you all so very much again for the honour and the pleasure to have worked with you all in the last 3 years.