The event described by Cuban Minister of Foreign Trade and Foreign Investment, Rodrigo Malmierca Diaz as “historic” saw the opening of the first Pacific Islands mission in Havana.
“We are indeed pleased to be the first Pacific Mission to establish a presence in Cuba. The Mission will serve Solomon Islands students studying here besides enhancing the Cuba-Solomon Islands cooperation beyond the health sector, “Prime Minister Lilo said.
He added: “Our presence here in Havana is not only centered on people but offers great value in providing a cost effective way in building a platform to explore new collaboration we already have with Cuba and its neighbours.”
Speaking in front of senior Cuban Government officials, diplomatic representatives, and Solomon Islands medical students studying in Cuba, Mr. Lilo said: “Our cooperation with Cuba is based on solidarity and fraternity and one that is guided by the principles of respect for national sovereignty, national ownership, independence, equality, non-conditionality, non-interference in the domestic affairs of countries and quality relations.”
Mr. Lilo said like Cuba, there are many common challenges that bind “us together from climate change to disaster risk management, from energy to food security amongst others”.
The Prime Minister also took the opportunity to thank the Government of Cuba for the support and extending the hand of friendship in educating 102 Solomon Islands medical students.
“In a few days after six years of studies, first 22 of our students will be graduating. We value Cuba’s model of training which is non-commercial in nature but rather has a humanitarian focus putting the people first,” Mr. Lilo said.
He said that the government and people of Solomon Islands anxiously await their return and it is the vision of the Government to increase the number of doctors to minimize doctor-population ratio to an acceptable level.
In doing that, Mr Lilo said that Cuba is contributing in a substantial way in transforming Solomon Islands and the Pacific health systems.
“We will work tirelessly to ensure the doctors live and provide service amongst our people to institutionalize preventive medicine at a time when Non Communicable Disease (NDC) claims 60 per cent of deaths throughout the Pacific including Solomon Islands,” the prime minister, said.
He took the opportunity to congratulate the graduating students and encouraged the continuing students to remain committed to their studies and work their way back home as doctors.
The Solomon Islands Mission in Cuba is headed by His Excellency Simeon Bouro and has been operational since March 2013.
Mr. Bouro said he was extremely happy that the mission has now been opened and thanked the Cuban Government for the support that they have shown to him since he took up the job last year.
Mr. Lilo opened the office with Minister Diaz and Mr. Rogelio Sierra, Vice Minister, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Cuba.
Also present at the opening is Ambassador Collin Beck, Solomon Islands Permanent rep to the United Nation.