16 Oct 2007

Forum opens in Tongan capital

6:13 pm on 16 October 2007

The Pacific Islands Forum summit in Tonga got under way this morning with a colourful ceremony at Pangai Lahi - a park next to the former royal palace in the middle of Nuku'alofa.

Solomon Islands was also present despite its government saying it would boycott the Forum main event.

Several thousand people gathered for the event undeterred by heavy rain.

Don Wiseman was among them.

"Those are the voices of nine hundred Tongan school girls performing at opening ceremony. They had been waiting in the rain for nearly four hours. Celebrations included a traditional Tonga greeting for chiefs and a salute by soldiers in pith helmets while a brass band also played. Earlier the leaders, all in their Chinese Government supplied Buick luxury cars had been driven to a makeshift covered platform - the biggest cheer from the crowd given to Fiji's interim Prime Minister, Commodore Bainimarama, while Solomon Islands was represented by Foreign Minister Patteson Oti. King George Tupou the 5th arriving last and half an hour late in one of his old British luxury cars opened the summit, lauding the foresight of former New Zealand Prime Minister Keith Holyoake for helping initiate the event in the early 1970s."