From left: Fiji’s Prime Minister and Outgoing PIF Chair Sitiveni Rabuka, newly-appointed PIF chair and Prime Minister of Cook Islands, Mark Brown, and PIF General Secretary Henry Puna during the PIF retreat in Denarau Nadi on February 24th 2023. Picture: Fijian Government
By VILIAME TAWANAKORO
The Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) Leaders have appointed the Prime Minister of Cook Islands, Mark Brown, as the new PIF chairman.
Outgoing PIF chair and Prime Minister of Fiji, Sitiveni Rabuka, welcomed the appointment saying “we are in good hands as we paddle our drua to achieve our collective aspirations”.
Speaking at the closing of the PIF Special Leaders Retreat 2023 in Nadi recently, Mr Rabuka said he was grateful for the opportunity to carry out the PIF chair role for two months as well as contribute to the outcomes of the meeting.
He said the retreat marked a milestone in regionalism as it enabled Pacific Island peoples to connect and rekindle many regional relationships.
“This is also an opportunity for Fiji to showcase again the warmth and hospitality that our Fijian people are renowned for, the world over,” Mr Rabuka said.
“We have reflected on what it means to be a Forum family and the importance of protecting our own solidarity. We have renewed our collective commitment to the 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific Continent.”
In line with the commitment under the Suva Agreement, Mr Rabuka said he was pleased to confirm the appointment of Dr Filimon Manoni, a nominee of the Republic of the Marshall Islands, as the Pacific Ocean Commissioner.
“We have also agreed to the establishment of a sub-regional office for the Pacific Islands Forum in the Republic of Kiribati; and a stand-alone office of the Pacific Ocean Commissioner in the Republic of Palau,” he said.
The outgoing chair also stated the planned release by the Government of Japan on the ALPS-treated water, as the Forum Leaders had reaffirmed the importance of science and data to guide the political decisions on the proposed discharge.
The meeting also discussed a range of specific country initiatives that were tabled by Leaders, including: the Regional Seasonal Workers Scheme, Australia’s bid to host COP 31 in partnership with the Pacific region, an update on the Draft Resolution to the UN General Assembly, seeking an Advisory Opinion of the International Court of Justice on the obligations of states in respect of climate change and Solomon Islands imminent graduation from least developed country status.
The Special Leaders Retreat was held on Denarau from the 23-24 February, and focused on solidarity within the forum through the theme ‘Reflection, Renewal, Celebration’.
Mr Rabuka had also reaffirmed that it was an incredible honour for him, personally, to have hosted his fellow Pacific leaders.
Meanwhile, Cook Islands will host the 52nd Pacific Islands Forum Leaders Meeting in the fourth quarter of 2023.
Viliame Tawanakoro is a final-year journalism student at USP’s Laucala Campus. He is also the 2023 student editor for Wansolwara, USP Journalism’s student training newspaper and online publication.