Nauru’s former President Baron Waqa has been appointed by Pacific leaders as the next Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum.
The appointment was done after a successful Special Leaders Retreat meeting in Denarau Nadi last week.
In a communiqué released by PIF, the Secretariat confirmed that Waqa will assume office from 2024, while the current Secretary-General Henry Puna serves his time-out till the end of this year.
Puna has already indicated that he is not pushing for another term in the top job of the Pacific’s regional body.
Meanwhile, in 2020, five Micronesian leaders had challenged the Pacific Island Forum (PIF) membership to appoint their joint candidate for the Secretary General of the regional grouping – or face a mass withdrawal from PIF.
It is understood that the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), Kiribati, Nauru, Marshall Islands and Palau make-up the Smaller Island States (SIS) group within the Pacific Islands Forum.
The five leaders threw down the gauntlet – challenging the rest of the 13 PIF member countries to ‘respect the gentlemen’s agreement’ and appoint Ambassador Gerald Zackios of the Marshall Islands as the next head of PIF to replace Dame Meg Taylor of Papua New Guinea.
In a strongly worded statement then, FSM President, David W.Panuelo said Micronesia’s position is not negotiable, and the only devastating consequence would be the break-up of the regional political body.
“I don’t want this to lead to fragmentation of our PIF, but it might do that. The Micronesian sub-region is as much a part of the Pacific as Polynesia or Melanesia, and if they are unable to adhere to the Pacific Way of respect for others, including respect for our Gentlemen’s Agreement, then the consequence is that we simply don’t engage with them or allow ourselves to be pushed around by people with ulterior motives in the PIF Secretariat.
“If this agreement is not honored, I see no benefit to remaining in the PIF, said President Panuelo at the end of the one-day Micronesian Leaders’ Summit.
The impasse has now ended after Prime Minister and former Chair Sitiveni Rabuka was able to persuaded Kiribati’s President Taneti Maamau to rejoin PIF.
Rabuka in the last day of the Retreat stressed the importance of protecting the regions solidarity, which is a pivot to the region’s collective commitment to its 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific Continent.
“This is a win for the region, and I am grateful for the opportunity that I have been given to carry this role,” Rabuka added.
PNG Prime Minister James Marape says that Rabuka has been very instrumental in the negotiations that have led to a successful meeting.
“Prime Minister Rabuka has both with him a wealth of regional diplomacy and experience, as he assumed the chairmanship role in the last two months he held them. There have been a lot of positive outcomes since then and PIF is grateful for Fiji’s leadership role in this matter,” Marape added.