RAROTONGA (COOK ISLANDS NEWS) — The challenges resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic is expected to be one of the key factors in the appointment of the new secretary general of the Pacific Islands Forum.

Former Prime Minister Henry Puna says past conventions and informal agreements between Pacific leaders should be secondary factors in appointing the next secretary general of the Pacific Islands Forum.

Puna is one of five candidates vying for the post, which has been held by Dame Meg Taylor from Papua New Guinea since 2014.

He said previous conventions have been broken in the past, and challenges for the region resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic need to be considered.

Referring to the late Greg Urwin, a career diplomat from Australia who held the top regional post from 2004 to 2008, Puna said: “Prior to that, there was a convention that people from the Pacific were the only ones that would be appointed to that position.”

“There is also a growing thinking that because the situation the region is in, and indeed the whole world, we need to look for the best possible candidate to fill that position,” he added.

Last week, Palau President Tommy Remengasau Junior threatened to pull his country from the Forum if the secretary general post isn’t given to a candidate from Micronesia.

In the lead-up to the appointment of the next Forum head, Micronesian leaders have been vocal about “Micronesia’s turn”.

Head of states from Palau, Kiribati, the Marshall Islands, Nauru and the Federated States of Micronesia have nominated Marshall Islands’ ambassador to the U.S Gerald Zackios to become the next secretary general.

The other candidates nominated for the job include Fiji’s Ratu Inoke Kubuabola, Tongan economist Amelia Kinahoi Siamomua and former head of the Pacific Community Jimmy Rodgers from Solomon Islands.

Only one Micronesian has ever held the position, Ieremia Tabai from Kiribati, who held the office from 1992 to 1998.

The position has been held by candidates from Tuvalu, Australia, Samoa and twice by Papua New Guinea, including Taylor.

The secretary general post is appointed by leaders of all 18 Forum member states….PACNEWS

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