Kiribati reaffirms decision not to participate in the PIF’s meeting underway


President of Kiribati, Taneti Maamau has reaffirmed their decision not attend the Pacific Islands Forum Leaders meeting days ahead of the 51st Pacific Islands Forum leaders meeting in Fiji. 

The forum kicked off yesterday with the goal to strengthen the family forum relationship with Micronesia.

The letter dated 9 July, was addressed to the Forum Secretary, Henry Puna. The President of Kiribati thanked him for their enduring friendship over the years and for continuing to seek genuine engagements and address the issues that threatened our unity and solidarity as a Forum family.

Last year Micronesian member states of the Pacific Island Forum decided to quit the organisation in response to Cook Islands’ appointment as Secretary-General, overlooking the appointment process, when Micronesian candidate Gerald Zackios was to be the Secretary. 

This is not in line with the gentleman’s agreement to rotate the forum’s top position among Polynesia, Micronesia, and Melanesia was not honored when a majority of Forum leaders chose Henry Puna of the Cook Islands.

“I would also like to take this opportunity to offer my deepest regrets if the position that Kiribati has taken with regards to the Suva agreement and our decision not to participate in the upcoming leaders’ meeting have offended you the Cook Islands and our Pacific family. 

“It was never meant to undermine your leadership of the pacific’s Premier institution nor it is directed at any member of the Pacific family. Kiribati attaches great importance to our diplomatic relations and especially and special friendship that we have enjoyed with the Cook Islands and the rest of the Pacific family. 

“This strong bond has allowed us to stand shoulder to shoulder and work collaboratively on matters of mutual interest at the bilateral, regional and multilateral level,” said Ma’amau. 

Adding that Kiribati remains concerned by their collective inability and to some degree their reluctance as as a region to address the core concerns outlined in the Mekreos communique in relation to the Gentleman’s agreements. 

“For Kiribati, this is a matter of principle and one that touches on the need for equity equality, and inclusiveness against any of our Pacific island brothers and sisters. 

“I unreservedly offer my apologies if it has been taken in that light It is meant to be a reminder to us all that our solidarity and understanding and unity as a region is dependent on how we treat each other with profound respect and understanding as we work through the challenges that we face as a region,” said the President of Kiribati. 

In June the Pacific leaders struck a deal to keep Micronesia in the PIF in a compromise was reached through dialogue and inclusive consensus-building rooted in Pacific Island cultures.

The deal is expected to be signed at the Suva meeting this week – to formalize the gentleman’s agreement in writing, ensure that a Micronesian candidate succeeds Puna as Secretary-General, and introduce other changes to bolster Micronesian inclusion.

Micronesian countries’ continuing role in the PIF would be a positive sign for Pacific regionalism, as they comprise about a third of forum members.