Cook Islands PM welcomes Kiribati back into the Forum

Photo: PIFS

Cook Islands Prime Minister Mark Brown is welcoming Kiribati back into the fold of the Pacific Islands Forum.

The Micronesian nation pulled out of the Forum in Fiji last year in protest of the appointment of former Cook Islands prime minister Henry Puna as Secretary-General of the Forum.

However, PM Brown said there had been a meeting between the new Fiji prime minister Sitiveni Rabuka and the President of Kiribati, Taneti Maamau, which facilitated the return of Kiribati back into the Forum.

“I think all the Pacific Islands countries would be happy with that. It will make for a more unified Forum,” Brown told Cook Islands News.

The Cook Islands will be the host of this year’s Forum Meeting, with PM Brown assuming the role of chairman.

“I think we’re coming in as a region out of the Covid-19 situation, so for many of the Pacific Island countries, economic recovery is going to be one of the key priorities,” Brown said.

“Many of the countries were setback by Covid-19 with the closure of borders, some more than others, so whatever we can do to support and bolster the economic recovery will be important.”

The Cook Islands last hosted the Pacific Islands Forum in 2012.

“I’m looking forward to the progress of the Blue Pacific Strategy, we are now in the stage of implementing that strategy. We’re setting a date for a special leaders’ meeting, so I could be assuming the role of chairman in either February or March,” PM Brown said.

Brown said it had not yet finalised a total budget for the Forum Meeting, nor have they set down the likely location of most of the Forum’s meetings.

“At this stage, we are in the planning process and waiting for the handover,” he said.

Brown said it was unlikely the Cook Islands Government would need to file a supplementary budget as a result of the Forum. “Things are going alright so far. We expect a number of Bills to be tabled in Parliament, but we don’t foresee a supplementary budget,” he said.