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Aitutaki receives Pacific leaders with warm welcome

Thursday 9 November 2023 | Written by Melina Etches | Published in 52nd Pacific Islands Forum 2023, National, Outer Islands


Aitutaki receives Pacific leaders with warm welcome
Samantha Taala Ramea, left, and Isabella Ramea, both Samoan, were excited to see Samoa Prime Minister Fiame Naomi Mata'afa on Aitutaki yesterday. 23110970

Aitutaki received the Pacific Islands Forum Leaders in heart-warming island style, gifting each of them with a unique Cook Islands hand stitched tivaivai during their welcoming ceremony.

The leaders arrived to the reception at Orongo Park transported in buses and welcomed with a traditional turou, for the welcoming ceremony of the 52nd Pacific Islands Forum. 

Over 400 people attended the special occasion.

Noticebly absent was the President of Nauru David Adeang.

However, his absence did not dampen the spirit of the leaders who joined in the festivities, dancing for a delighted audience.

Te Aito dance troupe entertained the guests and gathered crowd with their riveting drumming and stunning dancers.

Aitutakian women, Tutapu Vlasveld and Kaiti Tamu both said they were excited to be present at the event.

"I'm excited for this happening, it's big for us.

"All the women helped to sew the tivaivai and each village cooked food to bring here for this ceremony," Tamu said.

In anticipation of the leaders arriving, in the morning, Samoans Samantha Taala Ramea, and Isabella Ramea set up Samoan flags and a banner to welcome   Samoa's Prime Minister Fiame Naomi  Mata'afa.

"I'm so excited," said Samantha, who had the privilege of giving Mataafa an ei on her arrival at the airport

"Many of my family at home in Samoa won't get to meet her like I have, it's so exciting."

Following the ceremony, the leaders departed for Tamanu Resort for a meal, while those gathered enjoyed a feast at Orongo Park.

Today the leaders will get a glimpse of the island’s beauty when they depart O’otu Wharf on board Vaka Teariki Moana and Vaka Titi-Ai-Tonga for a lagoon cruise and Leaders Retreat.    

The planting of a Tamanu Tree on One Foot Island is scheduled around 12 noon followed by an official photograph, and then an official press conference at 3pm in Aitutaki Village.

They then depart for Rarotonga.