ISLAND TIMES – by Leilani Reklai November 17, 2020
In response to an editorial in the Marshall Islands Journal article titled “Zackios post at Forum at risk because of tactics”, accusing Palau President Tommy E. Remengesau of “Trump style” tactics, Remengesau said that the five (5) presidents of the Micronesia region calling for Pacific Island Forum (PIF) to honor the “gentleman’s agreement” is to insure inclusiveness, which is the core issue of the “gentleman’s agreement.”
“That is the exact core of this issue. Palau’s frustration which is shared throughout the Micronesia sub-region, is that this Pacific Way has been discarded in the PIF SG selection process.”
Remengesau in a letter to the editor of Marshall Islands Journal Giff Johnson said that the “consensus agreement was made by all Pacific leaders, to rotate the selection of the PIF SG between sub-regions. That decision was reached in the Pacific Way, by consensus, and it was reached for the purpose of inclusiveness. Inclusiveness is the entire message of the agreement on sub-regional rotation.”
Moreover the selection process for PIF SG “is not respecting an existing consensus decision” and failing to achieve inclusiveness, stated Remengesau.
The editorial article said that President Tommy E. Remengesau’s employed “Trump style ultimatum” in support of Ambassador Gerald Zackios’s nomination.
The editorial opined that should the Micronesia sub-region pull out of PIF, it will stand to lose many benefits the “premier regional organization” provides.
“That’s cutting off your nose to spite your face” action, expressed the editorial. It added that if the sub-region does not follow through on their threat to leave PIF, it still does not promote the “Pacific Way” of consensus decision making.
Echoing Cook Islands Prime Minister Mark Brown’s comments on Radio New Zealand in which he expressed that that the ultimatum to pull out of PIF by the five Micronesian presidents was “premature” and “extreme”, the editorial said that the “ultimatum is so far off the chart from the Forum’s “Pacific Way” consensus style that it was “negatively affecting the way leaders in the region view Zackios.”
One of the active contenders for the position of PIF SG is the previous Cook Islands prime minister Henry Puna. In an editorial by Timothy Bryer of Oceania Hypothesis, a blogger in Sydney, Australia published on October 1st of this year titled “Who will be the next SG of PIFS? Who cares?”, said that “we might want to care because of deep sea-mining (DSM).” In his editorial he said the Henry Puna from Cooks Islands as an SG “may provide a clearer pathway for DSM to take place in the Pacific – if not through ensuring sign off on a regional agreement, at the least perhaps by blocking any proposed moratorium that would prevent individual states from undertaking DSM. “
Remengesau in his letter said that the joint statement from Micronesian leaders “was not an opening salvo” rather a statement of frustration by Micronesian leaders for being ignored by other PIF members for over a year on the matter.
Palauans on social media reacted to the editorial supporting Palau’s position on the PIF SG selection with one questioning the benefits of PIF membership to Palau.
PIF is scheduled to hold virtual leadership meeting in December but rumors of its postponement has been going around with no firm confirmation from any member state.