Your Majesty Queen Halaevalu Mata'aho,
Members of the Royal Family,
Ministers of the Crown,
Your Excellency the Ambassador of Japan and Members of the Diplomatic Corps,
Members of Parliament,
Ladies and Gentlement,
It is my great pleasure to thank Your Excellency, Ambassador Yasuo Takase, on behalf of the Government and People of Tonga for inviting us here this evening to the commemoration of the Great East Japan Earthquake.
The evening of March 11th last year is still very vivid in my memory and like many of you present here this evening we watched live on Television the devastation and the disasterous effect of the huge earthquake on the Eastern Coast of Japan. We could easily see the ships washed up ashore, vehicles and large containers floating over the waters, buildings destroyed, while people scattered to safety.
I understand that countries sharing an ocean may also share the effects of a tsunami, depending on the size, location and other characteristics of the tsunami. The tsunami that hit Indonesia in 2004, also affected many countries of the Indian Ocean, from Indonesia to Thailand, to India Myanmar, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and as far as West Madagascar.
In listening to the radio about the Great East Japan tsunami, the announcer gave the Tsunami warning to the Pacific region and the expected time to hit each Island. Fortunately for Tonga, we noticed only a slight rise and a quick drop of the sea level.
Over the years we have always thought that tsunami will only affect other countries but not Tonga. This belief was discarded when Niuatoputapu was hit by the tsunami of September 2009, where nine lives were lost, a lot of people injured and huge damage to the island. Tonga is still working on the reconstruction of Niuatoputapu after that tsunami.
Reconstruction work after a major disaster, such as earthquakes and tsunami is always a huge task for Government and the people concerned. It is difficult for Government leaders to have any rest until the reconstruction is completed and their people are well settled back to proper shelters and safe living conditions. I can imagine the huge tasks in the hands of the Government and people of Japan on the reconstruction of the districts affected by the earthquake and tsunami of March last year.
Despite the devastating effect of the Great East Japan Earthquake and the challenges of reconstruction that the Government and people of Japan face, they continue to reach out across the ocean to assist Tonga and further strengthen the already strong diplomatic and socio-economic ties between Tonga and Japan.
Only this afternoon Tonga and Japan signed a USD 3.1 million a non-project grant aid programme that will be mutually beneficial. It will directly assist the Tohuku region of Amori, Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures decimated by the earthquake and Tonga's own reconstruction efforts and economy.
I take this opportunity, Your Excellency to extend my best wishes to your government, the leaders and the people of Japan - a great success and early completion of your efforts on the reconstruction works following the Great East Japan earthquake and tsunami.
Issued by the: Ministry of Information and Communications, Nuku'alofa 2012.