Prime Minister Fiame Naomi Mata'afa. (Photo: Junior S. Ami)

APIA (SAMOA OBSERVER) —-Work has already begun to reunite the Pacific Islands Forum after the Micronesian block of nations initiated moves to exit the regional body.

Speaking virtually during the Peter Tali Coleman Lecture on Pacific Public Policy at Georgetown University on Tuesday, Prime Minister Fiame Naomi Mata’afa said work has already started to reunite the “Pacific family.”

“Work is already being done to reclaim the unity of the Pacific family,” Mata’afa said. “It was an unfortunate situation.

“But then you don’t really know until it happens and perhaps the leaders had not thought about the outcomes of taking particular decisions. 

“But when it became apparent that the North Pacific side of the family felt excluded, I think that was the message which was received by the rest of the leaders.”

A fallout between Micronesia states and the PIF ensued, following the election of the former Cook Islands Prime minister, Henry Puna as the new Forum Secretary-General and the overlooking of a Micronesian candidate early last year.

However, in her virtual address on Tuesday, Mata’afa said the Pacific region is an inclusive community and work is underway to return former PIF member states in the northern Pacific to the fold.

“So I can say that work is already on the way to find a mechanism by which our family in the north can return to the Forum,” she said.

However, working during the COVID-19 pandemic has presented challenges for everyone in the region and matters of significance, such as addressing the fallout from the Forum Secretary General’s appointment is also affected.

“Like this meeting where we are having to meet virtually so to try and have the kinds of meetings to provide a way back for the north has been quite challenging, because we have not been able to Talanoa which is a face-to-face consultation,” Mata’afa said. “But we are hoping for the leaders to have a meeting in June and by then hopefully we’ll have resolved the issue of bringing back the northern members of the [Forum].”

The Prime Minister then emphasised that for small island nations in regions such as the Pacific, their collective stance is important in order for them to ensure that their voice is heard on global platforms…..PACNEWS

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