Micronesian countries pull out of the Pacific Islands Forum

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Five Micronesian countries leave the Forum

By Kalafi Moala

A meeting of the leaders of all the Micronesian countries has concluded by issuing a communiqué, they are standing in solidarity and collectively expressed their disappointment with the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) Secretary General appointment process.

The virtual meeting of the Presidents of the five independent states of Micronesia included the President of the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), the President of the Republic of Kiribati, the President of the Republic of the Marshall Islands, the President of the Republic of Nauru and the President of the Republic of Palau.

Palau has already taken the step of pulling out of the Forum before this meeting. They also announced the closing of their Embassy in Suva.

The Micronesian candidate, Gerald Zackios of the Marshalls, was overlooked in an appointment process. Micronesian leaders said there was a gentleman’s agreement to rotate the Forum’s top position among Polynesia, Micronesia, and Melanesia.

This was not honored when a majority of Forum leaders chose Henry Puna of the Cook Islands. The outgoing Secretary General was Dame Meg Taylor of PNG who has held the position in the last 6 years.

In their communiqué, the Micronesian Presidents jointly agreed to initiate the formal process of withdrawal from the Pacific Islands Forum “respecting their national processes and will act swiftly like the Republic of Palau.”

Their departure reduces the Forum to 12 members, all from the South Pacific sub-region.

The Micronesian action is raising a lot of questions on the future of PIF, and the negative impact this will have on Pacific regionalism.

This issue with Micronesia and the Forum is the second of two major incidents happening this past week in Fiji, which is having tragic consequences on the future of Pacific regionalism.

The other incident being the “Gestapo style” deportation of the USP Vice Chancellor, Professor Pal Ahluwalia and his wife Sandra Price. They were arrested in the middle of the night and driven to Nadi International Airport, 3 hours from Suva, and then put on a morning flight to Brisbane, Australia.

Professor Ahluwalia has been a thorn in the side of the Fiji Government for unveiling corruption in every level at USP, in a paper he presented to the USP Council. Most of his allegations were later confirmed by an outside and independent accounting consulting organization from New Zealand, BDO.

It was revealed in a meeting of USP’s highest Council that when they met about Professor Ahluwalia’s deportation, the Fiji Attorney General, Aiyaz Sayed Khaiyum stormed out of the meeting, as the Council refused to terminate Professor Ahluwalia’s work contract.

Twelve member countries of the Pacific own USP. They include Cook Islands, Fiji, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Niue, Solomon Islands, Tokelau, Tonga, Tuvalu, Vanuatu, and Samoa.

Two of these countries are from Micronesia, Kiribati and Marshall Islands.

It is reported that for some time the Fiji government has been trying to exercise political control over the regional university. This time, Professor Ahluwalia was in the way.

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