Deputy Prime Minister and Ministers, Hon Nobles of the Realm, Speaker and Members of Parliament,
His Excellency Ambassador Takase and members of the Diplomatic Corps,
Chief Justice and members of the Judiciary, Captain and crew, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Your Majesty, we thank you for gracing us this afternoon on this important and historical occasion - and a happy moment for your people
Last week, we had the ground breaking ceremony of the construction of the fourth and final phase of the new Vaiola Hospital complex - a complex that will cost 36 million pa'anga. This is an addition to the 2nd phase also funded by grant from Japan - total cost of which was $20 million.
Today we are here for the comissioning this modern vessel - a magnificent gift worth another $30 plus million - from the Government and the people of japan to your government and to your people, your majesty.
These are just three out of a long list of projects funded by grants from the Japanese government covering all sectors of the economy. Beginning in 1977 with the construction of the fisheries mariculture centre and since including the Kolonga and Houma GPS - Nuku'alofa/ Fua'amotu Taufa'ahu Road Project, one of the best constructed roads in the Kingdom, improvement of the Nuku'alofa watersupply, the Vava'u and ‘Eua High Schools, the Fuaamotu Airport Terminal...the current solar electricity project for the Vava'u Islands and Tongatapu Island communities...and many many others.
As for this new inter-island ferry, I wish to acknowledge with gratitude the ISP Shipbuilding and Engineering Company which built the boat, Mr Watanabe the project manager and who worked closely with our former Minister of Trasport Paul Karalus on the design of the vessel, our current Minister of Transport Hon Nuku who continued with this over the past 12 months....And of course JICA Executives and Japanese embassy staff here in Tonga.
This vessel was originally planned to have been delivered here in 2008 as his Majesty in Privy Council took the decision, on 22nd july 2005, to accord the Olovaha replacement Project Top National priority. And the Government of japan was formally requested to consider funding this project in the financial year 2006/2007. Unfortunately, some self-interested people here in tonga did their best to force the Japanese Government to defer this project until early 2009. Indeed their attempts nearly killed the whole project.
Your Excellency Ambassador Takase, please convey to your Government our sincere gratitude for this magnificent vessel - appropriately named the MV ‘Otuanga'ofa by His Majesty King George Tupou V - coming in to fill an important gap in the transport needs of our people. As Mr Watanabe has told us - properly maintained and serviced, this ferry should last for more than 30 years - but that is the key - properly maintained and serviced.
Your Excellency - our ties with your Government and your people have been long-standing friendly and close; more significantly and on personal level have been the close ties between our two Royal households - ties which underpinned the strong diplomatic relations between our two governments. The attendance of your Crown Prince at both the funeral of His Late Majesty and at the Coronation of His Hajesty King George Tupou V was clear testimony to this close and warm relationship between our two royal households. This is a lasting and meaningful legacy bequeathed to us tongans and our future generations through the foresight and engaging personalities of their late Majesties Queen Salote and Taufa'ahau Tupou IV.
Popular contacts between our two peoples have also been an important component of our close relationship - with your technical experts and volunteers assisting us in all sectors of our economy and communities. You have also welcome our students and our sports people into your country - from sumo wrestlers to rugby players - with more and more tongans now playing, working and living, and even marrying Japanese citizens in Japan and here in Kingdom.
Mr Ambassador, our congratulations to your rugby players for defeating us over the past couple of years - you took our players to assist in the development of your rugby but now you are teaching us how to play and win - Mr Mori-san has done a good job - but come next year - watch out - we will first dispose of the All Blacks in the opening match of the World Cup, - Jonathan Austin please take note - and then we will turn our attention to your team, Ambassador - pay back time then!
A little over a year ago, we celebrated the happy occasion of the opening of your embassy here in the kingdom, signalling another significant milestone in our relationship. Historically more noteworthy was the fact that it was the first Japanese Embassy to be establised in Polynesia. As the cradle of Polynesia, we had to be the first!
Today, your Excellency, Ambassador Takase, I am happy to announce that His Majesty's Government has taken the decision to establish our Embassy in Tokyo. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs have been at work on this for the past few months, and this completes the links in our diplomatic relations.
Your Majesty, once again our sincere gratitude for your Majesty's acceptance of our humble request to commission the MV ‘Otuanga'ofa.
Tu'a ‘ofa atu.
Issued by the: Ministry of Information and Communications, Nuku'alofa, 2010