President Tommy Remengesau Jr. said that Palau is considering opting out of the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) if the rest of the Pacific leaders will not support its Micronesian candidate.
Palau is hosting a special Micronesian leaders meeting in Koror where the issue of the next PIF Secretary General will be discussed among leaders of Palau, Nauru, Kiribati, Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) and Marshall Islands.
“This is an important consideration for Palau to continue to participate and be productive in the PIF agenda as long as our promises are met.
“We must therefore pursue every available option to ensure that these prior commitments are kept, now and in the future. If necessary, we must discontinue our participation in Pacific Island Forum activities until this issue is resolved,” he said.
The leaders of the five Micronesian countries are backing the sub region nominee Gerald Zackios, Marshall Islands’ ambassador to the US, for the secretary general’s post.
Zackios is up against Fiji’s Ratu Inoke Kubuabola, the Cook Islands’ former prime minister Henry Puna, Tongan economist Amelia Kinahoi Siamomua and the former head of the Pacific Community Jimmy Rodgers from Solomon Islands for the SG position.
Current Secretary General Dame Meg Taylor, who is from Papua New Guinea (PNG) ends her two consecutive terms this year,
The only Micronesian who had held the position was the first president of Kiribati, Sir Ieremia Tabai.
Candidates from Australia, Tuvalu, Samoa and Papua New Guinea held the post.
Kiribati and Nauru leaders supported the call for the Forum leaders to honor the “gentleman’s agreement” that the next secretary general would be provided by Micronesia.
Nauru President Lionel Aingimea said the sub region has always abided by the rules of the PIF and now it’s the forum leaders’ turn to fulfill that commitment.
“Through the gentleman’s agreement we expected that this year will be Micronesian’s turn to put up their candidates – anything less is a contrary to our customs and culture which bind us as one Pacific family,’ he said.
Kiribati President Taneti Maamau wants to underscore the critical importance of the solidarity, and that the sub region is “resolute’ in its decision that it is Micronesian’s turn to provide the SG.
“We must remain vigilant and be prepared to consider any effort our collective way to deliver on this outstanding commitment,” he said.