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Senin, 08 Februari 2021

Micronesian nations to quit Pacific's peak regional body, leaving it in disarray - ABC News

Five Micronesian countries have announced they will be leaving the Pacific's top regional body, the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF), after Palau late last week said it was quitting over a bitter leadership dispute.

A communique released today and signed by the leaders of Nauru, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Palau and the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) said the nations had agreed to initiate the formal process of withdrawing from PIF.

The move came after former Cook Islands prime minister Henry Puna won a ballot to become the new secretary-general of PIF, which Micronesian leaders claimed broke a "gentlemen's agreement".

Mr Puna won by one vote (9–8) last week, ahead of Marshall Islands' diplomat Gerald Zackios, the candidate put forward by the five-nation Micronesian bloc.

FSM's President David Panuelo and his fellow Micronesian leaders claimed the gentlemen's agreement would have seen a Micronesian candidate appointed as the next PIF secretary-general, after years of Polynesian and Melanesian candidates holding the top job.

Cook Islands Prime Minister Henry Puna deflects claims of party disunity
Mr Puna won the vote by just one vote, defeating the Micronesian group's preferred candidate.(AFP: Marty Melville)

In the communique, the leaders of the five Micronesian leaders expressed "great disappointment" with PIF's appointment process for the secretary-general role.

Nauru President Lionel Aingimea, who is also the chair of the Micronesian group at PIF, said in a statement he believed the body had "lost its original intent".

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"The PIF was formed in 1971 and has only been led once by a Micronesian secretary-general in its 50 year history," he said.

A separate statement from the FSM Government said Mr Panuelo had "expressed frustration" after several Pacific leaders suggested the gentlemen's agreement "doesn't exist or that they've never heard of it".

Late last week, Palau announced it was quitting PIF and shutting down its embassy in Fiji in response to the appointment of Mr Puna.

Tonga's candidate for Secretary-General, economist Amelia Siamomua, told the ABC's Pacific Beat program that a split would weaken the region and called on Pacific leaders to try and reach consensus.

"We cannot disintegrate and break away just like that, we must persist, we must be optimistic and look at what must be done to bring us back together."

All of the leaders in Tuvalu for the PIF.
The Pacific Islands Forum is the region's top body for high-level cooperation and consultation.(ABC News: Melissa Clarke)

The controversy has not only strained ties between Pacific Island leaders, it has stirred resentment towards Australia from some Micronesian leaders.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Foreign Minister Marise Payne have taken turns representing Australia at the annual Pacific Islands Forum leaders meeting.

Senator Payne told the ABC's AM program on Tuesday that she told Mr Aingimea a day earlier that unity needed to be a priority for the region in 2021.

Palau beaches
Palau had already announced it would quit the Forum, with other Micronesian nations now set to join them.(Reuters: Jackson Henry)

"It was certainly a robust contest for the appointment of the incoming secretary-general," she said.

"I absolutely appreciate the disappointment that representatives of governments across Micronesia have with that outcome.

"But I do very much hope that they decide to remain engaged with the Forum. I can say certainly that our close partnerships with those nations will remain and continue whatever eventuates."

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2021-02-09 00:49:00Z
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