Fiji’s Prime Minister and incoming Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat Chairman Voreqe Bainimarama has asked Micronesian leaders to reconsider their decision to leave the Pacific Islands Forum.
The call comes days after leaders of the Micronesian countries decided that they would leave PIFS, citing disappointment after their nominee was overlooked for the position of Secretary-General.
In a statement, Bainimarama invited the leaders to attend PIFS’ next meeting in August in Suva to work with other leaders’ address their concerns and “overcome this disagreement for the long-term.”
“Our last discussion made clear, Talanoa doesn’t always translate over zoom,” Bainimarama said. “As Chair of this year’s Pacific Islands Forum, I invite you to join us in Suva, in person, to give our Pacific way a fair shot to continue the work we have been doing for 50 years, and recommit ourselves to a stronger common purpose.”
Leading up to the appointment of Dame Meg Taylor’s successor as PIFS S-G on 3 February 2021, the Micronesian countries were banking on a gentleman’s agreement that the position of S-G will be rotated through sub-regional grouping, and based on which, insisted that their nominee in Geralz Zakckio should be given the S-G role. They also made it clear then that they would leave if their nominee were not chosen.
Their nominee lost out to Cook Islands former Prime Minister Henry Puna nine votes to eight, prompting Palau to follow through with its threats. The other four Micronesian countries have also indicated that they would do the same.
Bainimarama is hopeful the Micronesian leaders will have a re-think, urging them to stand in solidarity with the rest of the Pacific Leaders in charting a way forward to tackle development issues and other crises as one Pacific family.
“Like any other family, we have disagreements but we are held fast together by thousands of years of shared culture, traditions and history and now by shared political strategic and economic interests,” he said.
“As sovereign nations with common challenges and a common destiny, we can be proud of what we have achieved together. Rather than endure meekly the existential threats we face like climate change, we have united with one voice to demand that our children have the future they deserve.
“Our voice has been strong and it is now too powerful for the world to ignore. Today, in the face of climate and ocean crisis and the economic crisis that the COVID-19 pandemic has brought upon us, solidarity is still our best recourse.”
He said the meeting in August, that United States President Joe Biden has been extended an invitation to attend, would be an opportune time for Pacific Island countries in their pursuit of a resilient net-zero future.
“I have invited President Joe Biden to the Pacific Forum Leaders meeting this August to join our nations on the frontlines of the climate emergency. It would be among the most powerful acts of solidarity the new American President could show the climate- vulnerable.
“It is an opportunity that deserves every measure of our collective support.”