Palau lawmakers back withdrawal from Pacific Forum

The Palau Capitol in Ngerulmud, Melekeok State. File photo

KOROR (Reuters) —  08 February 2021

The Palau National Congress or Olbiil Era Kelulau  has voiced its support for President Surangel Whipps Jr.’s decision to withdraw from the Pacific Islands Forum.

The Congress met ahead of M Monday’s virtual meeting of the leaders of Micronesian countries to discuss their future involvement of the sub-region in the Forum. 

President Whipps’s decision stemmed from the appointment of Cook Islands former Prime Minister Henry Puna as secretary general of the Forum last week.

Palau and other Micronesian countries argued that the post should have gone to their candidate, Marshall Islands’ diplomat Gerald Zackios.

This is based on an unwritten “gentleman’s agreement” that the role be rotated by sub-region and that it was Micronesia’s turn.

In a statement, members of the Palau National Congress reaffirmed their support for a House joint resolution made last year that concluded “there is no benefit to the Micronesian members remaining in the Pacific Island Forum if the gentleman’s agreement is not honored.”

On Friday, speaking to RNZ Pacific, Whipps said South Pacific countries have come to dominate the forum’s decisions by sheer numbers.

Describing a breakdown in trust within the Forum membership, he questioned the composition of the Pacific Islands Forum, and suggested a new regional body might be needed.

“As a region, as Pacific brothers, we will continue to fight for that, we will continue to be part of FFA, we will continue to be part of SPREP and all those things. 

“But the PIF, maybe we need to come up with a new organization and find new members because the current configuration is self-interest and that is the problem.”

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