The Cook Islands–the home country of Henry Puna, the current Secretary-General of the Pacific Island Forum–said they are not aware of any discussion of Henry Puna leaving his post as SG of the Pacific Island Forum.

In a news release issued by the Cook Island government, the Cook Islands Prime Minister Mark Brown said that he was not aware of any discussions with the PIF Chairman or Micronesia/other Pacific Island leaders regarding SG Puna stepping down.

In the ABC’s Pacific Beat interview, FSM President David W. Panuelo reported that the Micronesian leaders have been assured that discussions are ongoing regarding reforms in the PIF including current SG Puna leaving to head the Pacific Oceans Commissioner post based in Auckland, New Zealand in June.

“That’s one of the reforms, among others, and I think it’s the most hardline (position) all of us had taken on as Micronesian leaders, because if the Pacific Island Forum is to continue with credible unity, those reforms…have to be met,” stated Panuelo in his ABC’s Pacific Beat Interview.

Based on this information, Micronesian leaders held a meeting and agreed to “pause” their withdrawal from PIF until the discussions are finalized.

The Cook Islands said that “it remains committed to the decision made by Leaders in 2021. Any decision for SG Puna to step aside would need careful consideration and assent by Cook Islands Government before being put forward to all Forum Leaders. This process has not happened so we are unsure of what undertakings have been proposed to Micronesia at this juncture.”

“Until we receive notifications from the Chair on the status of this proposal, any discussions relating to the SG stepping aside are premature and puzzling,” the statement said.

“We are set to leave the PIF, each country has a different exit date based on when they submitted their notice to leave. Kiribati is the last with an exit date set for July. We have been asked by PIF Chair and other leaders to “pause” our exit and give them until June to address the reforms including our demand for Micronesian SG. We have all agreed to “pause” but we have all submitted our exit notices so if nothing comes of it, we will leave,” said President Surangel Whipps Jr.

The statement from the PIF Forum Chair said that a Special Leaders Retreat will take place next month to discuss the resolution to the issue.

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