KOROR (Island Times/Pacnews) — Palau President Surangel Whipps Jr. on Wednesday rejected the call of the Pacific Islands Forum’s new secretary-general, Henry Puna, for a continued political dialogue over Micronesia’s withdrawal from the regional body. 

“Probably not, we are out of PIF,” Whipps told reporters.

He  said the Micronesian islands — Palau, the Marshall Islands, Kiribati, Nauru, and the Federated States of Micronesia —  do not recognize Puna as the “legitimate” PIF secretary-general.

He said Puna’s selection as secretary-general was a “slap in the face” for Micronesia.  

“Our position has been very clear, we don’t recognize Puna as legitimate, and he should not be there, that was the decision that was taken and that’s why Micronesia is out,” Whipps said.

In a statement last week, Puna said a political dialogue was underway with the Micronesian presidents.

He said the dialogue was “symbolic of our Pacific way of talanoa and amicable resolution of differences. Let us await the outcome of that process. As the Forum Secretariat, we will continue to serve all members and I look forward to that ongoing engagement across our Forum family.”

But President Whipps said the trust has already been broken.

“We have to trust each other — we have to have a system that is based on trust and commitment that should be honored,” he added.

“Why are we part of an organization that doesn’t honor its commitment?’ 

Prior to the election of the PIF secretary-general, Micronesia said that based on a “gentlemen’s agreement,” it was the region’s turn to take the helm of the regional organization which includes Melanesian and Polynesian islands.

But in February, the Forum ended up electing a Polynesian, Henry Puna, the former prime minister of the Cook Islands. He beat the Micronesian candidate, Gerald Zackios of the Marshall Islands, by a vote of 9 to 8.

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