US Rep. Ed Case has urged members of the Pacific Islands Forum to remain united.
“Don’t let the Forum fail, that’s my basic message,” Congressman Case told Pacific journalists this week.
Case is the co-founder of the Congressional Pacific Islands Caucus and has introduced the Blue Pacific Act, which is legislation aimed at increasing US engagement in the region.
“Regionalism is not only an advantage for the Pacific Islands, but it’s really the only way forward in what’s going to be a difficult world here,” Rep. Case continued. “I just think it would be a terrible tragedy if the Forum fails.”
The Congressman was responding to questions over the continuing impasse over the selection of former Cook Islands Prime Minister, Henry Puna, as Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum. Five Forum members, Nauru, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Kiribati and Palau, have signalled their intention to withdraw from the Forum after their candidate, Marshallese Ambassador Gerald Zackios, failed to secure the position.
“There are many countries in the world that would prefer the Forum to not work—and that’s not in the interests of the Pacific Islands, it’s in their own interests. So I don’t think you want to let that happen,” Rep. Case told Pacific journalists this week.
Micronesian leaders were absent from last week’s virtual Forum leaders meeting. Nauru President, Lionel Aingimea, and chair of the Micronesian Presidents’ Summit (MPS), attended on their behalf.
In a statement after the meeting he said, “Micronesia leaders, who standing on the principles of the Mekreos Communique, are not attending the retreat.
“The Mekreos Communique articulates that if the long-standing Gentlemen’s Agreement is not honoured, then the Micronesian Presidents see no benefit in remaining with PIF.”
Today the new Forum Chair and Fiji Prime Minister, Frank Bainimarama, stated his tenure “will be focused on rebuilding the solidarity of our Forum Family, and I look forward to working closely with Leaders to agree on a way forward that works for all parties and restores the full strength of the Pacific Islands Forum.”
At the meeting proper last Friday, Bainimarama opened with the words: “I offer you my deepest apology,” to Microneisan leaders. “We could have handled it better,” he added.
The Forum is celebrating it’s 50th anniversary this year.
Prime Minister Bainimarama says the 51st Pacific Islands Forum and Related Meetings will be convened over the next 5 –6 months with the theme ‘Security and Prosperity in Unity’.