Palau president Surangel S. Whipps Jr in Rarotonga. LOSIRENE LACANIVALU / 23110770
Micronesian leaders maintain their support for the nomination of controversial former Nauru president Baron Waqa as the next Secretary-General of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat.
Palau President Surangel Whipps Jr told Cook
Islands News that the Micronesian leaders reaffirmed their commitment during
the Micronesian Presidential Summit held at the Nautilus Resort in Rarotonga on
They relooked at the Suva Agreement, which
stipulates that current Secretary-General Henry Puna will continue in his role
until next year, at which point the designated Micronesian candidate will
assume the position.
The agreement envisions rotating the leadership
role among the three sub-regions: Micronesia, Melanesia, and Polynesia. It also
calls for the establishment of a new Pacific Islands Forum office in a
Micronesian country and the relocation of the Pacific Ocean Commissioner
position to Micronesia.
President Whipps Jr emphasised that the nomination
of Baron Waqa aligns with the agreement reached at the Micronesian Presidents
meeting in Pohnpei in February, which was subsequently submitted to the Pacific
Islands Forum during a meeting in Fiji.
“The PIF agreed to it,” he reaffirmed.
“I believe yesterday’s (Monday’s) discussion at the
Micronesian Presidential Summit is merely the implementation of the Suva
Agreement, which encompasses the SG, the Office of the (Pacific Ocean)
Commissioner, the regional office, and all other elements,” he added.
Head of the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) and
Fiji’s Prime Minister Sitiveni Rabuka acknowledged that discussions regarding
Baron Waqa as the incoming Secretary-General have taken place in the corridors
of the Forum meeting and previous gatherings.
Rabuka stated, “We would like to consider the
historical context of our current situation. I had to engage in negotiations
with the country of Micronesia, Kiribati. We brought back the president, and
Kiribati cooperated with us. Similarly, Micronesia cooperated with us.”
“We must also consider their interests as well as
past practices. What transpired during the last election for secretary-general?
These are all factors I will need to bring to the table when considering the
successor for the secretary-general.”
Pacific Islands Forum Chair Mark Brown, Prime
Minister of Cook Islands, stated that they have not yet engaged in discussions
on this matter.
It is understood that the leadership role will be
discussed during the leaders’ retreat in Aitutaki on Thursday.
Waqa who arrived in Rarotonga for the 52nd
Pacific Islands Forum Leaders Meeting on Sunday, told RNZ Pacific he was
“We need to get everyone together. Reunited and
refocused again,” Waqa said, in his first-ever interview with the media
directly addressing his candidacy as the region’s top diplomat.
Waqa was a controversial figure during his time as
Nauru president, for his treatment of refugees and the judiciary, while there
are accusations, he received bribes in a case that remains open.
When asked what he has to say to the critics he
said: “Unfounded. They’ll just want to spoil things.”
“Its (his appointment as secretary-general) already
been decided,” he said, before adding “no, we leave that to the leaders”.