The Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) is set to meet first week of February to select the next Secretary-General, a position contested by the leaders of five Micronesian nations that include Palau.
In a press statement last week, the PIF announced that the focus of the Special Leaders Retreat will be the COVID-19 pandemic and the appointment of the next Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum.
The Forum Chair, Prime Minister of Tuvalu, the Honorable Kausea Natano said “the settlement of a date for the special retreat of the Pacific Islands Forum has been an arduous process given the competing commitments of Leaders at the national level. However, following extensive consultations with Colleague Leaders, I am pleased to confirm the first week of February for this session. I am confident that we will also appoint the new Secretary General when we meet in February.”
Outgoing President Tommy Remengesau Jr. and the leaders of Marshall Islands, Kiribati, Nauru, and the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) have threatened to withdraw from the Forum unless their nominee gets to be chosen as the new Secretary-General.
By January 21, Palau will have a new president who is supporting Micronesia’s stance to have their nominee- Gerald Zackios, the Marshall Islands ambassador to the United Nations, head the PIF Secretariat.
In an interview last week, President-elect Whipps said that a “commitment” has been made by leaders of the PIF that its Micronesia’s turn to provide the Secretary General.
“This is where we come together as a region, I think it’s time that a Micronesian has the opportunity to head the Forum. It’s only fair,” Whipps said.
He also said all nominees are all qualified for the position, but the choice will come down to the leadership position, which he said should be decided on the commitments that have been made.
“When we make commitment, we should live by them. That partnership requires trust. If we don’t follow through with our commitment, it erodes one’s trust,” Whipps said.
He agrees that if commitments are not honored, then there is no use being in the forum.
“I was hoping that they have this issue resolved,” Whipps said.
He also raised concerns that some sectors outside the region might be influencing the leaders’ decision on who should be the next secretary-general.
Whipps said Pacific leaders should be able to make their choice as a region.
The other nominees are Tonga’s Amelia Kinahoi Siamomua, Solomon Islands Dr Jimmie Rodgers, Fiji’ Ratu Inoke Kubuabola and former Cook Islands Prime Minister Henry Puna.

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