Fijian PM calls for PIF unity to tackle development issues

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SUVA, Feb. 19 (Xinhua) — Fijian Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama on Friday urged the Micronesian leaders to stand in solidarity with the rest of the Pacific leaders in charting a way forward to tackle development issues and other crises.

With plans afoot for the Micronesian leaders to officially leave the forum, Bainimarama, also chair of this year’s Pacific Islands Forum (PIF), said that throughout the 50-year history of PIF, the mana of the leadership has been tested by the natural complexities of regionalism, according to a government statement.

Bainimarama said as a unified bloc, they have commanded the attention of the most influential nations and multilateral organizations.

“Our voice has been strong and it is now too powerful for the world to ignore. Today, in the face of climate and ocean crisis and the economic crisis that the COVID-19 pandemic has brought upon us, solidarity is still our best recourse.”

He regretted the announcement on Micronesian leaders’ intention to leave the PIF.

“I hope you know the doors to our home are open to you, and I urge you to reconsider and work with all our fellow leaders to find ways to respond to your large concerns and overcome this disagreement for the long-term,” he said.

Meanwhile, Samoan Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi on Friday voiced his support for the rotating PIF leadership, saying that his government is willing to review the appointment process for PIF secretary general.

As Pacific leaders, they have taken huge strides to present the region not as a collection of fragmented small islands, but as a united group of large ocean states, he said, adding that there is always a way – the Pacific Way – to reach a solution to the PIF leadership dispute.

On Feb. 4, Henry Puna, former prime minister of the Cook Islands, was elected the new PIF secretary general after a virtual meeting held by the inter-governmental organization. He will replace the outgoing PIF Secretary General Dame Meg Taylor, who is from Papua New Guinea and has been in this position for six years.

Five Micronesian countries, including Kiribati and the Federated States of Micronesia, have announced the intention to formally withdraw from PIF over a leadership dispute.

The PIF is the region’s premier political and economic policy organization. Founded in 1971, the PIF, which comprises 18 members, aims to enhance cooperation between countries and territories of the Pacific region.

Currently, the PIF has 18 dialogue partners including China. Enditem

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