POHNPHEI, —In September 2019, Micronesian Leaders unanimously submitted the subregion’s candidate for the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat (PIFS) Secretary General (SG) post, reaffirming again this decision in June 2020.
Leaders of Micronesia remain united and resolute in their decision to endorse the incumbent RMI Ambassador to the U.S, Gerald Zackios, for the esteemed post.
The unprecedented global Covid crisis rests on top of an already challenging array of regional development and security challenges. More than ever, the Pacific needs a Secretary General who is a careful listener, well-versed in foreign policy, and who will build on important efforts to shape regionalism with pragmatic management strategies. In this regard, Micronesia Leaders are confident in Ambassador Zackios, who has proven himself to be a strong, empathetic, and conscientious leader with impeccable credentials, and with vast experience in the Pacific who will work closely with Forum Leaders and other stakeholders to guide and lead the work of the PIFS.
Current Chair of the Pacific Islands Forum, Tuvalu, initiated the recruitment process in mid April, calling for nominations to be submitted before 19 June, 2020. Immediately after the nominations were opened, the Micronesian Leaders conveyed their mutual nomination of Gerald Zackios.
On 18th June, just a day before the deadline for nominations were to be closed, Forum Chair Tuvalu recommended that the decision be delayed until the next Forum Leaders’ meeting, to discuss the matter in person. Tuvalu also recommended that the Forum consider extending current Secretary General Dame Meg Taylor’s term or appointing the Deputy Secretary General, Dr Filimon Manoni as Acting Secretary General until the proposed face-to-face meeting of the Forum Leaders in 2021. The Chair further informed the Leaders of his decision to extend the previously prescribed deadline for submission of nominations subsequently allowing for nominations of additional candidates.
In a joint letter to the PIF Chair, Micronesian Leaders acknowledged the recommendations however strongly objected to any efforts to delay the decision and the extension of the original deadline for nomination beyond 19 June, 2020. At the Leaders’ Retreat in Palau in 2014, when the region was selecting the new Secretary General then, Micronesia lost out because their candidate came in late. The decision of Micronesian Leaders to put forth a candidate early on in the process, in fact, in February 2019, was to avoid compromising the integrity of the selection process. This demonstrates that Micronesian Leaders have been thinking about this for the last three years. Other PIF sub-regions have contributed to the Forum’s important legacy in building regionalism, and it is rightful and timely that the Micronesian subregion should participate accordingly without unnecessary delay. “There is no valid reason why Forum Leaders cannot address and resolve the selection of the Secretary General during the Virtual Forum Leaders retreat this year,” said the Leaders.
As incoming Chair for the MPS, Nauru contends that the “Gentlemen’s Agreement” surpasses meaningless foreign ideals but is rather based on our Pasifika values that are rooted in our customs and cultures of honouring the very essence of our traditions. Therefore, based on this, it is Micronesia’s turn. Micronesia has only ever led the PIF once since its inception, and by denying Micronesia of its turn to lead and contribute to building regionalism at this level of this esteemed institution, we chip away at the soul of our cultural and customary upbringing; and so to this end, this Forum must uphold the Gentlemen’s Agreement.
Micronesian leaders seek the Forum Chair’s response to the joint letter and strongly advise that the 19 June 2020 deadline be reinstated and the appointment of the Secretary General be decided during the Leaders Virtual Retreat this year. It is timely for the region to have a Micronesian candidate to ensure solidarity and balanced perspective from our region. The Micronesian Leaders strongly feel the solidarity and integrity of the PIF is strengthened by the Gentlemen’s Agreement and should not be ignored….