16 March 2022
Nuku’alofa – Deputy Prime Minister Honourable Poasi Mataele Tei today thanked the ‘Pacific Family’ for the assistance rendered to Tonga in the past six weeks, following the devastation caused by the Hunga-Tonga-Hunga-Haapai volcanic eruption and tsunami on January 15.
Hon. Tei was speaking at the farewell ceremony for members of the Australia Defense Force (ADF), Republic of Fiji Military Forces (RFMF) and the France New Caledonia military team at Vuna Wharf here in Nuku’alofa.
The three institutions partnered in the ‘Tonga Assist’ operation, in response to Government’s request for assistance.
“Today the Government and the people of Tonga would like to say to you all malo ‘aupito, thank you, Vinaka vakalevu and Merci beaucoup for the support you all had rendered to the people of Tonga,” Hon. Tei stated.
“On behalf of His Majesty’s Government and the Honourable Prime Minister, please accept our most sincere gratitude for the great work undertaken to help the people of Tonga.”
Hon. Tei stated that government’s recovery and rebuilding program has started with home reconstruction here on Tongatapu.
Government is now focused on moving from immediate response to recovery and rebuilding, critically on rebuilding for better resilience.
Hon. Tei said the assistance given in surveying affected areas, assisting with airlifting and carrying supplies to the islands and cleaning up islands and villages that were affected will help in the rebuilding program.
Tonga is ranked the third most country at risk to climate change which presents Tonga with a daily challenge, but Hon Tei said the partnership and assistance given by “our friends in our time of need makes this reality an acceptable one to live with”.
Hon Tei presented gifts on behalf of the Government of Tonga to the respective team leaders from Australia, Fiji and France New Caledonia.
Australia’s High Commissioner to Tonga, Her Excellency, Ms. Rachel Moore, Captain Jace Hutchison, Commander of the HMAS Canberra and Major Jiuta Baleisolomone, leader of the RFMF Engineering Unit were all present at the farewell event.
His Majesty’s Armed Forces Chief of Staff Brigadier Lord Fielakepa also thanked the ‘Pacific Family’ for the joint partnership in the assistance carried out here in Tonga.
Members of the RFMF return to Fiji this evening while the HMAS Canberra returns to Australia on Friday.
The HMAS Canberra was one of the three Australian naval vessels that was part of the ‘Tonga Assist’ operation, replacing the HMAS Adelaide three weeks ago. The HMAS Supply was also here as part of the operation.