It is now a month since the Leaders Summit in Rarotonga and things that were hushed up during the meeting are now beginning to come out. One of those things Letter from Suva has been told is the alleged dismay by Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Peter O’Neill’s about not being able to spend more time or have a cuppa coffee with his colleagues to talk about issues of relevance to them and the islands because bilateral meetings were taking up most of leaders time.
Such comments by the biggest member of the Pacific Islands Forum cannot be taken lightly. In fact, it does not augur well for the organisers of the summit, the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat (PIFS). And for the critics, it is another reason to again raise questions about PIFS and the Forum and their relevance to the islands. As one critic who spoke with Letter from Suva said: “I think the Forum is in real danger of losing its relevance to the people of the Pacific… it is losing its place as the forum where islands leaders can get together and discuss and share with each other ideas on how they can tackle economic and social problems.”
Just take a look at how regional politics has panned out. There are now sub-regional groupings like the Melanesia Spearhead Group that have cropped up as a result of the islands countries being unhappy with the Forum Secretariat. As the critic puts it: “The emergence of subregional groupings is a testament to that, but one needs to ask why when two Samoans heading PIFS and FFA (Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency), the Pacific has seen the emergence of more splinter groups? “Is this a sign that they lack confidence in their leadership or is it a reflection of the changes taking place in the region?”
The critic added that technocrats have taken over the Forum where all the outcomes are predetermined, and Forum Leaders only rubber stamp decisions. This no doubt raises questions about the ability of our leaders and whether they can make up their own minds.
...to read more buy your personal copy at