ISLAND TIMES – by Bernadette Carreon April 30, 2021
Palau President Surangel Whipps Jr. said while Micronesia welcomes the apology made by the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF), the sub-region will remain steadfast on leaving the regional grouping unless changes are made.
“I am sorry for what. So the apology should come with the remedy. I assumed there are working on a remedy,” he said.
The remedy he said would be for incoming Secretary-General Henry Puna to step aside and let Gerald Zackios, Micronesia’s preferred candidate to take the post.
“So that is what I am hoping and that we are moving forward in that direction. If Micronesia is in, Puna is out, if Puna is in, Micronesia is out,” Whipps said in an interview.
Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) President David Panuelo in an interview with ABC Radio Australia said the withdrawal of the membership of Micronesia remains.
Mr. Panuelo says the decision to withdraw from the Forum still stands but “the way forward is very positive”.
“The position remains the same but the dialogue continues and so therefore in May I believe we will be having a much more in-depth review,” he said.
The apology was made during the Forum Troika Plus political dialogue held virtually on 26 April.
Micronesian leaders in attendance – Nauru President Lionel Aingimea and FSM President Panuelo received an apology from Papua New Guinea Prime Minister James Marape, Samoa Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi, Fiji Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama, and Pacific Islands Forum Secretary-General Dame Meg Taylor.
In a press release from the Nauru government, it stated that the Pacific leaders “ expressed regret’ on the handling of the PIF selection of new secretary-general and “acknowledged that the situation could have been managed differently and better.”
Forum Chair and Prime Minister of Tuvalu Kausea Natano expressed sadness in the current rift and reminded the leaders that the dialogue was to listen to the concerns and issues of the Micronesian presidents and to “secure the solidarity of our region.”
President Aingimea is deeply thankful and moved by the depth of sincerity in the apologies he describes as “resonates deep within my heart.”
“Leadership is shown at times like this and to the Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea, the Prime Minister of Samoa, and the Prime Minister of Fiji, you have shown yourselves to be able leaders; wise leaders, in bringing words like this to us here.”
The leaders appealed to Micronesia not to leave the forum, and going forward vowed that the SG position would be on rotation.
SG Taylor said, “while denunciations have been served there is time yet to strengthen the union.”