New PIF head Puna says unity in the region will be a priority


The new Secretary-General of the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) Henry Puna said he will continue to champion for unity in the region, amid the leadership row that prompted Micronesian nations, including Palau to quit the Forum.

Puna held his first virtual press conference with Pacific journalists last week said the Pacific region is “a family” that will continue to work in solidarity.

He said a high-level dialogue is ongoing and that it’s left to the Forum leaders to reviews adding that he has no direct role in the process.

“As my predecessor has told me already, there is a high-level political dialogue process in place. It is still ongoing and has been set up by our Forum leaders to be confidential and conducted in retreat. I have no direct role in it. And I will respect the confidentiality of the process,” he said.

He said despite the challenges the Forum is facing, he is optimistic that the “Pacific way” will play in ensuring unity.

“First, there is little doubt that our enduring Pacific Way is why despite the challenges and constraints we face. We are so successful and so well known for the achievements that come from unity. This is what makes us so unique and so special. We are a family. And despite family fallout now, our current and future challenges are best addressed collectively through the Pacific way, which reflects and safeguards our shared values,” he told reporters.

He said that he is aware that a couple of meetings have been conducted among the leaders, which he said shows that the leaders are engaging.

“Believe that by talking, by sharing, and by respecting each other’s views, we can come to a compromise. We need to engage. That’s the key,” he added.

As a region, Puna said climate change and the COVID-19 impacts to the member states are the Forum’s priority.

“We all acknowledge that climate change is the most serious threat facing the Pacific, and we need to focus on what we can do and how we can engage with the rest of the world to get them to agree that this upcoming COP26 is a defining moment for our efforts to implement the rules as set out in the Paris Agreement,” he said.