The Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat Fractures


Surangel Whipps Jr., President of Palau, writes, "Micronesia had no choice to but to abandon the Pacific Islands Forum after being ‘thoroughly and publicly disregarded", 

For two years, Micronesian leaders prepared for their long-awaited turn to lead the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat - a pressing point of discussion at the 2019 74th UN General Assembly meeting. “Consensus” has historically prevailed, such as the last cycle, where other candidates were withdrawn in favour of Dame Meg Taylor, the consensus candidate from Melanesia. This cycle, it was Micronesia’s turn, and the Micronesian leaders unanimously nominated Gerald Zackios, Marshall Islands’ Ambassador to the United States, as Micronesia’s candidate for PIF secretary-general.

It became clear that PIF members outside Micronesia were less than committed to the established process. Strong PIF members, including Australia and New Zealand, indicated their interest in additional candidates. Over the continuous protests of Micronesian leadership, the PIF secretary-general selection was repeatedly postponed, and the deadline to nominate secretary-general candidates was also extended, over the formal objections of all five Micronesian members, allowing multiple candidates to compete with Micronesia’s even after they had missed the boat.

In the end, Polynesia’s Henry Puna won the election by a single vote.

Nine countries broke the agreement on sub-regional rotation, and tragically any one of them could have changed the outcome.

Australia, which had promised not to “influence the process” and instead “to simply get behind the consensus candidate,” could have declined to break this tie. It could have abstained in search of actual “consensus.” New Zealand could have done the same, as could have Fiji, home of the Forum headquarters.


Please find the rest of President Whipps' op-ed at the link below: