WELCOME HOME were two words which rang out of Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare’s voice as he fought back tears at the Henderson International Airport yesterday.
Prime Minister was speaking in a handover ceremony of the body of the nation’s first Ambassador to the People’s Republic of China (PRC), John Moffat Fugui whose casket arrived yesterday afternoon.
The late Ambassador’s body was accompanied by his three children – one girl and two boys. His wife and the other daughter were at the airport.
Prime Minister Sogavare credited the late Ambassador Fugui with the success of establishing Solomon Islands-China’s diplomatic relations.
“It’s the most important decision, which has given new opportunities to move forward,” Sogavare said.
The Prime Minister also thanked the people and government of China for facilitating the return of Ambassador Fugui’s body within a short time. He also extended his gratitude “to the hardworking staff” of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and External Trade for facilitating the repatriation of Ambassador Fugui’s body.
The flight carrying the late Ambassador Fugui’s body arrived around 2:50pm yesterday. A small crowd largely government ministers and senior officials were at the airport as the Airbus A320 aircraft touched down.
China’s Ambassador to Solomon Islands, His Excellency Li Ming and his staff, were also at the airport to pay their last respects. In a brief statement, Ambassador Li expressed sorrow at Ambassador Fugui’s passing.
“Today, we gather here in deep sadness to witness the return of the body of late Ambassador John Moffat Fugui. On behalf of the Chinese Embassy in Solomon
Islands and in my own name, I offer deep condolences and regret over the passing of Ambassador Fugui, and express sincere sympathy to his family.
“Late Ambassador Fugui was a politician respected by the people of Solomon Islands. His love towards his country and people was so deep and enormous, that he chose to devote himself to the development of Solomon Islands as a member of parliament and later a cabinet Minister.
“Late Ambassador Fugui was also a pathfinder to China-Solomon Islands’ relations. Before establishment of diplomatic relations between our two countries, Ambassador Fugui once led the SI/PRC Task Force Committee to visit Pacific Island countries having diplomatic relations with China, conducted fruitful communication with China, and helped pave the way of diplomatic relations. Ever since he took office as Solomon Islands Ambassador to China in May 2021,” Ambassador Li said,
“Ambassador Fugui earnestly performed his duties and worked diligently to promote in-depth development of our bilateral relations and cooperation in various fields, while continuously paying effort to consolidate the friendship between our two peoples. Ambassador Fugui’s passing is a loss to Solomon Islands and its people, as well as a loss to China-Solomon Islands’ relations and friendship between our two countries.
“After Ambassador Fugui’s passing, H.E. Wang Yi, member of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee, State Councilor and Foreign Minister of China conveyed his condolence message to the Solomon Islands side, sending his heartfelt sympathy to the government and people of Solomon Islands and Ambassador Fugui’s family.
“Chinese vice foreign minister and assistant foreign minister also expressed their condolences to the Embassy of Solomon Islands in China. In order to show our respect to the traditions of Solomon Islands and the will of Ambassador Fugui’s family, China has organized a special charted flight to bring Mr Fugui’s body back home.
“I think, that is also a manifestation of the special friendship between China and Solomon Islands and the profound sentiments between our two peoples,” he said.
“During Ambassador Fugui’s lifetime, I had close contact with him. I still remember vividly for so many times had he discussed with me his vision for China-Solomon Islands relations, and those great expectations he held for cooperation in various sectors between our two countries. The best way for us to commemorate Ambassador Fugui is to carry forward his legacy and to develop the cause of friendship between China and Solomon Islands, to deepen our mutual trust, to expand our cooperation, and to consolidate our friendship.
“Only in this way can we console Ambassador Fugui’s spirit with the rock-solid and prosperous China-Solomon Islands relations. For that purpose, I have full confidence for the future with firm support of the government and people of Solomon Islands.”
Robert Fugui, a member of the family, yesterday presented Ambassador Li and Prime Minister Sogavare a Tafuliae (stringed shell) each. He said this was a token of gratitude for the speedy repatriation of his brother’s body.
Prime Minister Sogavare handed a Solomon Islands flag to Mrs. Fugui marking the formal handover of the body to the family.
A funeral service would be held at the St Barnabas Cathedral starting at 10am on Thursday.