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Pacific Islands Forum Meeting – of people and power

Every six years Pacific leaders meet at their annual summit to discuss who will win the lottery and get the six figure job of Secretary General of the Forum. It is quite literarily the lottery as the first Secretary General of the Forum, the late Henry Naisaili told me that he had saved a million dollars in his tenure of the post. This is possible because the Forum’s heads spend most of their six years travelling and can normally live off their per diems and simply pocket most of their salary. That was over 20 years ago and no doubt whoever replaces Neroni Slade will be able to save a good deal more. But that is not a good reason to detain the entire region over an issue that will almost certainly be decided by the power (or cheque book ) politics and will have little impact on the direction of the region. There are at least three candidates who are up for the top job.

The first is Ambassador Kaliopate Tavola, a very talented and able diplomat who has been dubbed the ‘eternal secretary general in waiting’ who has now been in the wings for a very long time. He is followed by Dame Meg Taylor from PNG and Dr Jimmy Rogers who will be strongly supported by the Solomon Islands. None of the political elite want him back in Honiara as he would be such an outstanding candidate for the job of Prime Minister of the Solomon Islands.

Dr Rogers has to be excluded from the top job completely because there are so few people of his calibre and skills in the political elite in Honiara that his talents would just be completely wasted in an institution as vapid as the Forum. Dame Meg Taylor is also an exceptionally intelligent and qualified candidate. PNG has in the past put up some real lemons for high international office and she will neither embarrass PNG nor disappoint the region. So if these are the options and there are no Micronesians then certain facts are clear. The most obvious is there will not be Melanesian solidarity this time. Second if Ambassador Tavola wins the lottery then there will be three Fiji born people at the top.

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