Forum appeals to the breakaway group to stay in the fold
Hoping to fix the rift in the Pacific Islands Forum, the “Fiji faction” has apologized to Micronesian nations over the impasse in the selection of the secretary-general.
The Forum appealed to the breakaway group to stay in the fold, vowing to revisit the February vote that triggered the resentment.
Palau, Federated States of Micronesia, Marshall Islands, Nauru and Kiribati have initiated the one-year process of withdrawal from the regional bloc in protest over the Forum’s renouncement of a “gentlemen’s agreement” to rotate the leadership selection among member nations.
During the Feb. 4 vote, the Forum picked Cooks Island Prime Minister Henry Puna over Marshall Islands' Ambassador Gerald Zackios, the Micronesian subregion’s candidate. Prior to the election, leaders of the Micronesian region had repeatedly warned they would quit the Forum if their turn to lead was shunned.
“Sorry to you my fellow Micronesian brothers,” Fiji Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama said, recalling his country’s own suspension from the PIF in 2009.
According to Loop PNG News, Bainimarama, Papua New Guinea Prime Minister James Marape, Samoa Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi, the Forum's outgoing secretary-general, Dame Meg Taylor, offered individual apologies during the virtual Forum Troika Monday and acknowledged that the situation could have been managed differently and better.
Presidents Lionel Aingimea and David Panuelo, of Nauru and FSM, respectively, were in attendance, according to Loop PNG.
Marape appealed to Micronesia not to leave the Forum and encouraged the leaders to “break bread” and "right the wrong."
“I appreciate the situation that the Micronesians are in now and strongly believe that we should reflect on all their concerns and find ways to resolve them amicably," Bainarama said.
At Monday's dialogue, regional leaders also tackled the PIF meeting processes, a review of the secretary-general appointment procedures, formulation of the region’s 2050 strategy and review of the regional architecture.
“Let us collectively reflect on the issues raised by our fellow Micronesian Leaders today and deliberate further in our next meeting. I ask that we take our dialogue a step at a time and be flexible in our approach that reflects our true Pacific Way," Bainarama said.