Pacific Islands Forum leaders during their Retreat on One Foot Island yesterday. MFAI/23111001
Former Cook Islands Prime Minister Henry Puna will vacate the Pacific Islands Forum secretary general role at the end of his first term next year, after regional leaders agreed to hand over the role to controversial ex-Nauru president Baron Waqa.
decision was reached during the Pacific Islands Forum Leaders Retreat on
Aitutaki yesterday, attended by all regional leaders except the newly elected
Nauru President David Adeang.
and his delegation walked out of a plenary meeting at the 52nd
Pacific Islands Forum Leaders Meeting in Rarotonga on Wednesday after questions
were raised about the process to nominate the next secretary-general of the
Forum. Waqa was confirmed as Micronesia’s nominee to lead the regional
organisation at a Special Forum Leaders meeting in Fiji in February.
left Rarotonga on a charter flight yesterday morning after meeting with United
States Representative to the United Nations Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield.
Adeang left Rarotonga on a charter flight yesterday morning after meeting with United States Representative to the United Nations Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield. 23111003
the Leaders Retreat at Aitutaki’s One Foot Island, Puna joined the incoming
Forum chair Tonga Prime Minister Hu'akavameiliku Siaosi Sovaleni, Federated
States of Micronesia President Wesley Simina, Fiji Prime Minister Sitiveni
Rabuka, and Cook Islands Prime Minister Mark Brown, the current chair, at a
press conference to announce their decision.
said the leaders have reaffirmed their commitment to the Suva Agreement, which
states that the Micronesian candidate will assume the position from next year.
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.
said that a secretary general to the Forum is a servant to the island leaders
and that his work is to implement all the decisions made by the Forum members.
questioned about the selection criteria, Puna said: “Leaders have reaffirmed
their decision from February, appointing Baron Waqa.”
said the agreement is solely on the leaders.
nomination has been subject to criticism in the media due to his track record
during his time in power, including the sacking of judges, Australia’s Police
investigating him for taking bribes, and for imposing harsh restrictions on the
to the incoming secretary general’s controversial past, Fiji PM Sitiveni Rabuka
said they are not judges.
judged Waqa as a controversial figure? As far as we are concerned, we are not
judges. We received the nomination, and I was part of bringing back Micronesia
earlier on, and I had to fly to Kiribati to talk to our colleague and bring
back Micronesia to make sure they will continue to be members of the Pacific
Outgoing New Zealand Deputy Prime Minister Carmel Sepuloni takes a selfie with Pacific leaders during their Retreat on Aitutaki yesterday. Picture: Carmel Sepuloni/Facebook/23110923
said Waqa’s appointment was transparent.
Brown also said: “We received updates from members of the Micronesian
Presidential Summit on the different aspects of the Suva agreement, including
the establishment of the oceans commissioner’s office, establishment of a
sub-regional office, and confirmation of Baron Waqa as the next secretary
general to the Pacific Islands forum.”
also confirmed that the next Pacific Islands Forum Leaders meeting will be held