Wednesday, 15 February 2022
Government of the Cook Islands
Te Kauono Tutara e te Mana Tiaki – Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Immigration
“Prime Minister Brown welcomes the decision by the Micronesian Leaders to “pause” their withdrawal from the Pacific Islands Forum to enable additional time for further dialogue in seeking a resolution to the current situation. As one of the founding Members, the Cook Islands are acutely aware of the history and standing of the Forum that has been a critical part of our Pacific identity for 50 years.
The Cook Islands has always supported the sanctity of Leaders’ decisions and the Pacific way of dialogue, respect, and consensus.
The Cook Islands is aware that media reports and statements are circulating that the Pacific Islands Forum Secretary General Henry Puna is to step down before June 2022 purportedly as part of an undertaking between Micronesia and other Forum Members.
Prime Minister Brown understands that no such arrangement has been agreed by the Forum Members and any discussions relating to SG Puna stepping aside would need to involve the Cook Islands. Prime Minister Brown can confirm he has not participated in any discussions with the Chair, Micronesia or any other Pacific Leaders relating to SG Puna stepping down. It is disappointing that such a proposal has been disclosed via the media without prior consultation with the Cook Islands and fellow Pacific leaders.
The Cook Islands remains committed to the decision made by Leaders in 2021. Any decision for SG Puna to step aside would need careful consideration and assent by the Cook Islands Government before being put forward to all Forum Leaders. This process has not happened so we are unsure of what undertakings have been proposed to Micronesia at this juncture.
The Cook Islands' current position is that the non-Micronesian Leaders in the Forum submitted a reform package to Micronesia last year and non-Micronesian Leaders are waiting for an official response to this before determining the next steps. Until we receive notification from the Chair on the status of this proposal, any discussions relating to the SG stepping aside are premature and puzzling. The Cook Islands looks forward to working with the Chair and all Leaders in resolving the current impasse.
Queries regarding this release can be directed to MFAI at firstname.lastname@example.org