PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT
Pacific Islands Development Program/East-West Center
With Support From Center for Pacific Islands Studies/University of Hawai‘i
IONATANA'S PIONEERING LEADERSHIP HAILED AS TUVALU MOURNS
SUVA, Fiji Islands (December 12, 2000 - PINA Nius Online)---Fiji has hailed the late Tuvalu Prime Minister Ionatana Ionatana as one of his country's distinguished pioneering leaders.
Interim Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase underscored the close ties between Fiji and Tuvalu. He did this with a personal message of condolence and by sending Deputy Prime Minister Ratu Epeli Nailatikau to represent Fiji at today's funeral in Funafuti.
Mr. Qarase said in his message to Acting Prime Minister Lagitupa Tuilimu:
"We are deeply saddened by the loss to Tuvalu of one of its distinguished pioneering leaders. We share with his family and the people of Tuvalu the sorrows on the loss of a loved father and leader.
"In meetings I had recently with him, I was very impressed by his passionate commitment to make Tuvalu a self-reliant nation.
"On behalf of the Interim Administration and the people of Fiji, I convey our sincere condolences.
"We shall remember him with respect and affection in our prayers and may Almighty God bless him with His eternal peace."
Tuvalu has been in mourning since Mr. Ionatana collapsed and died at an Air Fiji function in Funafuti last Friday night:
Condolence messages have flowed in from around the world.
Mr. Ionatana had been prime minister for just under two years but had won international recognition for his deep concerns over climate change and the impact it is having on low-lying atoll nations such as Tuvalu.
He had also won praise for developing Tuvalu's self-sufficiency through a project in which Tuvalu is gaining millions of dollars selling its dot TV Internet suffix.
Mr. Ionatana, a former policeman and top civil servant, also spoke strongly in support of the rights of indigenous Fijians in Fiji following the May 19 coup by indigenous Fijian gunmen led by George Speight.
Pacific Islands News Association (PINA)