|Tokelau has a new Ulu (titular head), Faipule Afega Gaualofa. This year it was Fakaofo’s turn to lead the remote Pacific country that comprises 3 atolls with about 1,400 inhabitants, just south of the equator.
To partake in the annual celebrations, Tokelauans had arrived from the other islands Nukunonu and Atafu, as well as from Apia in Samoa where the national public service is based. For this event, a delegation from Wellington was also present in this non-self-governing territory of New Zealand.
On the previous day, the Ulu o Tokelau for 2015, Faipule Siopili Perez from Nukunonu had been welcomed in a traditional challenge by Fakaofo warriors. Everyone was hiding until the peaceful intentions of the visit had been ascertained.
Morning celebrations started with the national anthem. “Tokelau mo te Atua” (Tokelau with God) being sung by children of the Tialeniu school while members of the police force raised the flag. Locals and visitors then gathered in the meeting hall Fakafotu where the minister of the protestant EFKT church, Reverend Mose Kelesoma, led in opening sermon and prayer.
Te Ulu o Tokelau 2016, Faipule Afega Gaualofa, is being sworn into his new position.
Te Ulu o Tokelau 2015, Faipule Siopili Perez, is challenged by Fakaofo warriors upon arrival on a barge, from the new ship Mataliki (background right; the freighter Fasefulu is on the left).
The Tokotoko, the Tokelau staff of authority, was brought in and handed from the 2015 Ulu Perez, to the 2016 Ulu Gaualofa who proceeded to take the Oath. Congratulatory speeches were then delivered by one senior (“grey hairs”) representative, hauatea, of the taupulega of each nuku (council of each village).
|The outgoing Ulu o Tokelau Perez took the stand for his hand-over speech. He firstly acknowledged the support from the New Zealand Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT), Mr Murray McCully.
Faipule Siopili Perez commented with pride on some of the things that had been achieved during his one-year term, such as granting more scholarships for Tokelauan students than ever before. All schools now have their own satellite dish for distance learning with the University of the South Pacific (USP).
The new ship “Mataliki” had just been received as a gift from the NZ Government. This event was of course the result of many years of planning, negotiation and hard work. Further options of improving transport options would continue to be explored, he said. In all cases, it was “Safety first”.
The World Health Organisation had awarded Tokelau a special prize for being the first country to ban soft drinks. This move had been led by Fakaofo and soon followed by Nukunonu and Atafu. The main aim was to fight Non-Communicable Diseases (NCD), and work has now begun to eliminate smoking from Tokelau in the next 5 years.
He acknowledged that thanks to New Zealand support, free to air TV was now available in Tokelau and options for a mobile network were being investigated and close to reality.
Tokelau must ensure that optimum profit from its Exclusive Economic Zone is achieved, despite this now being a lot more challenging: because the United States had defaulted on its Treaty.
Faipule Perez thanked the Office of the Council for continuing to deliver its services, particularly in guiding Public Servants in its main goal: improving the Quality of Life for people in Tokelau.
He asked forgiveness for where had had failed to represent the people – presumably referring to Tokelau’s withdrawal from the COP21 Climate Change conference in Paris in November 2015.
He then wished his successor all the best in his new position and pledged him his continued support.
The Acting Administrator, Ms Linda te Puni delivered a speech on behalf of the New Zealand Government. She thanked to outgoing Ulu o Tokelau Siopili Perez for working together in the past year and looked forward to working with the newly sworn-in Ulu o Tokelau Afega Gaualofa.
Mrs Maria Reijnen Clayton then presented gifts from the New Zealand Government: to the outgoing Ulu o Tokelau a waka huia, a treasure box to safe-keep the wisdom he gained during his term; and to the inaugurated Ulu o Tokelau a taiaha, a ceremonial spear as an encouragement to take up the challenge of the new office.
Groups from Atafu, Nukunonu, kaiga (family) and Fakaofo in their uniform island coulors then presented their many gifts. The new Ulu o Tokelau Afega Gaualofa and his wife Kilita, plus the mayor of Fakaofo, Pulenuku Mose Pelasio and his wife, Suia, were showered with handicrafts in the form of woven hats fans, and mats; carved wooden paddles, fishing nets, plus garlands of money. They were also wrapped in long lengths of cloths, while each of the gifting groups performed traditional songs and dances.
Te Ulu o Tokelau 2016, Failule Afega Gaualofa and his wife Kilita (right) at the inauguration ceremony. The previous Ulu o Tokelau 2015, Faipule Siopili Perez with his wife Taase, on the left. The tokotoko held in the middle by Police officer Aleki Manuele is the staff of authority over the three Tokelau islands.
Not only the newly inaugurated Ulu o Tokelau, Failule Afega Gaualofa, is showered with gifts: so are the Pulenuku (mayor) of Fakaofo, Mose Pelasio and his wife Suia (right).
Students of years 7 to 11 from Tialeniu school and from USP of Fenuafala in Fakaofo entertaining guests over lunch.
Inauguration day was completed by a cultural evening, a dance-off between teams from the nuku (villages) Atafu, Nukunonu and the hosts Fakaofo, shown here.
The Tokotoko, the Ulu o Tokelau’s staff of authority.
|The three cultural dance groups from the three atolls: Atafu (in front), Nukunonu (middle) and Atafu.|