ABC – Broadcast: Thu 25 Feb 2021, 6:00am, By Richard Ewart on Pacific Beat
The man at the centre of Micronesia’s breakaway from the Pacific Islands Forum, says there is ‘no easy way back’ into the forum but while the five countries may have left the regional body, they have not left the Pacific.
Marshall Islands’ Ambassador to the United States, Gerald Zackios, was Micronesia’s candidate in the recent election for the post of Forum Secretary-General.
When he was defeated by former Cook Islands prime minister Henry Puna by a single vote, the Micronesian bloc carried out their threat to quit, arguing a gentlemen’s agreement to appoint Mr Zackios had been broken.
Addressing a webinar organised by Georgetown University and the Center for Pacific Islands Studies at the University of Hawaii, Mr Zackios said there’s much more to Micronesia’s split than just a spat over a key position.
“I don’t think it should be seen as weakening PIF, the Micronesian sub region division to withdraw was to the core of what needs to be addressed,” he said.
“Not only of the election process but of the whole important reforms… so that every membership… should be equal.”
During the webinar Mr Zackios hinted at patronising attitudes from the South Pacific nations, which would often come to a head at the Forum’s HQ in Suva.
“A colleague of mine was once posted in Suva who would offer to host regional meetings in Micronesia,” he said.
“The offers were met by quizzical question of ‘how do we get there?’ the ambassador would respond well how did I get here?” Duration: 6min 43sec Broadcast: Thu 25 Feb 2021, 6:00am