FIJI’S High Commissioner to Solomon Islands Romano Tikotikoca paid a courtesy call on Prime Minister Hon Manasseh Sogavare, Wednesday, and discussed issues of common interest to their two countries including the identification of Fijians of Solomon Islands black-birded ancestry in Fiji.
The majority of Fijians with Solomon Islands ancestry are descendants of Solomon Islanders who were taken to work in plantations in Fiji during the blackbirding era in the late 1800s.
The identification process is part of the Fiji Government’s “Unshackling the Chains of the Past” vision to ensure that all Fijians are treated equally despite their ethnic or religious background.
The Fiji Government has also encouraged Fijians of Solomon Islands ancestry to meet one another and enhance their Melanesian network.
Mr Tikotikoca told Prime Minister Sogavare that the Fiji Prime Minister, Frank Baenimarama, had met with the Solomon Islands descendants in Fiji.
In the meeting held on the 14th of July 2012, the Fiji Prime Minister paid tribute to the tireless efforts by their black-birded forebears in contributing to the development of Fiji and assured them that all Fijians will be treated equally despite their ethnic or religious background.
The Fiji High Commissioner said the Fiji President Ratu Epeli Nailitikau had tasked him to conduct a follow-up meeting with the Solomon Islands descendants after their initial meeting with Prime Minister Baenimarama and he held two meetings- one for those of Malaitan ancestry and the other for those of Guadalcanal descent.
“All Solomon Islands descendants in Fiji are either from Guadalcanal or Malaitan descent and they are now mixed. They live in 36 settlements,” Mr Tikotikoca added.
In response, Prime Minister Sogavare acknowledged the move by the Fiji Government to identify Solomon Islands descendants in Fiji and encourage them to enhance their Melanesian connections.
“It would be good to know who is who with the Solomon Islands descendants in Fiji so they can be able to trace their roots here in Solomon Islands and I am encouraged by the assistance your government is offering to assist them in this endeavour,” he added.
Prime Minister Sogavare also used the opportunity to express gratitude to the Fiji Government for assisting Solomon Islands Government with its education budget under a Memorandum of Understanding and Memorandum of Agreement on education cooperation between the two governments.
The MoU and MoA also cover agriculture and business cooperation and bio-security and police trainings.
Prime Minister Sogavare said there are other outstanding issues of bilateral cooperation between the two governments and he will be encouraging the relevant Solomon Islands Government ministries to follow up on them.
Prime Minister Sogavare also raised the prospect of Fiji establishing a diplomatic mission in Solomon Islands.
“It would be a great boost for our bilateral relations to have your diplomatic presence here in Honiara and this is something that my government can look into advancing if you wish to pursue.”
The Fiji High Commissioner to Solomon Islands also raised the concern of the Fiji Government about people crouching into the Fijian WWII Memorial Cemetery in Chinatown and was assured by Prime Minister Sogavare that the Government will deal with this issue.