The Pacific Leaders Forum in disarray

The Pacific Leaders Forum is no longer a cohesive respectable regional institution it once was. Twice Samoa at two meetings warned that the Forums solidarity was disintegrating as members focused more on their own separate regional priorities.

At the time only the Melanesians and the Small States were established leaving out Tonga, Samoa and FSM without any formal regional association. Eventually, the Micronesian Group was set up and in 2011, the Polynesian Leaders Group (PLG) was finally established in Samoa with a much greater membership. It means in any issue requiring a vote, the Polynesian States will unavoidably become the dominant voice.

This reality emerged when the appointment of the new Secretary General was raised in 2020 and the Micronesian Leaders campaigned strongly for their Candidate. Samoa forewarned members to delay the decision to give more time for Forum Members to talk (talanoa process), which is the Pacific way to solve their problems.

New Zealand, Australia and all the Micronesian Leaders wanted to force the vote and against Samoa’s advice supported by the Polynesian and Melanesian Leaders, the vote was taken and it went to Henry Puna, as we expected.

All the Micronesian Leaders threatened to leave the Forum at the time, and to pacify the Micronesians, the Forum leaders cut the current Secretary Generals term to one term only, reflecting poorly on the Forum Leaders leadership and a great disrespect of the Polynesian Leaders Group Candidate.

New Zealand and Australia as represented by their Foreign Ministers displayed a complete lack of understanding of the Pacific way of solving their problems through the Talanoa process during the whole episode.

At the recent Forum meeting, we heard that Nauru walked out of the Forum meeting. That incidence alone tells a lot about the Micronesian leaders today.

Samoa’s continuing Leadership in the Forum, is extremely vital. When Samoa persistently asked the UN to grant Samoa its Independence, the UN decided to use Samoa as a Test Case for all the UN Trust Territories. When we proved that we were capable to look after ourselves, Fiji, PNG etc, were later granted also their Independence.

That, Samoa is the first former UN Trust Territory to celebrate 60 years of Independence, it did not just happened as an incidence of history - Another good reason for the New Zealand Government to note and respect the Rule of Law and honor the Privy Council Decision of 1982 on the right to New Zealand Citizenship of all those who were born in Samoa during their Administration.

Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi

Leader of HRPP

Samoa Observer

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