New leadership for Pacific Islands Forum

In the absence of Australia’s Tony Abbott and New Zealand’s John Key, and with Fiji still suspended from Forum meetings, Papua New Guinea’s push for regional leadership was highlighted at the Pacific Islands Forum in Palau. The choice of Dame Meg Taylor as the Forum’s new Secretary General – replacing Tuiloma Neroni Slade of Samoa – is one sign of PNG’s renewed influence in the region. As the leaders held their annual retreat on the island of Peleliu, PNG Prime Minister Peter O’Neill and Solomon Islands PM Gordon Darcy Lilo briefly left the meeting, to allow other leaders to debate the choice of Secretary General.

Dame Meg, who has worked with the World Bank group since 1999, was chosen over Dr. Jimmie Rodgers of Solomon Islands, Kaliopate Tavola of Fiji and Tony de Brum of the Marshall Islands. The first woman to hold the post, Dame Meg will now head an all-women leadership in the Forum Secretariat, joining Deputy Secretary Generals Andie Fong Toy and Cristelle Pratt.

After the decision, former SPC Director General Jimmie Rodgers congratulated Dame Meg on her appointment, telling Islands Business it was “a win-win for both the Pacific and for the Solomon Islands.” “Dame Meg is a wonderful leader for the region, and I am free to pursue other interests,” he said. “When I went back to my village after finishing at SPC, people told me they wouldn’t be unhappy if I didn’t get the Secretary General’s post – they said they had bigger things for me to do.”

With the Solomon Islands moving towards national elections later this year, Dr. Rodgers may not be spending too much time fishing in coming weeks. Palau, the Marshall Islands and the Federated States of Micronesia were promoting a Micronesian for the top job. FSM’s nominated candidate Fabian Nimea was overridden at the last minute when the three Micronesian presidents endorsed Tony de Brum at their July 2014 presidential summit.

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