Pacific Island Forum leaders’ selection of Henry Puna, former Cook Islands Prime Minister as the Secretary General of the Forum Wednesday night, split the regional body nearly in half, and left Micronesian countries disillusioned about the PIF and its mantra of the Pacific Way.
President Surangel Whipps Jr., attending this, his first international meeting as President, said he was disappointed with the outcome. “Obviously we have different views on what Pacific Way is. Pacific Way is inclusiveness, it’s not about me me me. This process and the voting we go through shows, no, we are Polynesians, we are South Pacific, we stay together.”
“If there’s no trust, and recognition of rotation between the sub-regions, then there is really no reason to remain in the Pacific Island Forum,” FSM President David Panuelo to Pacific Beat.
Former presidents of the Micronesian countries chimed in with Hilda Heine, former RMI president twitting her reaction saying the “process left a bad taste in our mouths, & the realization that Micronesian countries could never be integral or significant players in the PIF.”
“It’s really about respect and honor,” stated Palau’s former President Tommy Remengesau Jr. Responding to comment made by SG Dame Meg Taylor that Gentleman’s Agreement expired after 2002 selection of PIF SG, former President Remengesau said, “I beg to differ. If that had been the case, we would have raised our voice.” He said that the Gentleman’s Agreement was critical because of the smallness of some of the countries. If it was based on simple voting, smaller countries will have no chance.
On the way forward, President Whipps said “We have said enough before the meeting and now we just need to act on what we said. So, first step for Palau, today we are sending a diplomatic note to close the embassy in Fiji.”
“We wanted them to honor the Gentleman’s Agreement and the majority decided not to honor it so we have to take a different course,” stated Whipps.
The leaders of Micronesia are calling a meeting at the earliest convenience to plan ahead.
Pacific Island Forum leaders in a close virtual meeting this week, elected Henry Puna, former Prime Minister of Cook Islands, the next Secretary General of PIF, replacing outgoing SG Dame Meg-Taylor.
The results of the selection split the Forum nearly down the middle with 9 votes for Puna and 8 for Gerald Zackious, the Marshalls Ambassador to the United States who was nominated candidates of the five (5) Micronesian countries, Republic of the Marshall Islands, Republic of Palau, Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru and Kiribati.