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Tonga to chair Polynesian Island Group

(Radio & TV Tonga, Nuku’alofa, 08/09/2016)

Tonga has been elected as the next Chair of the Polynesian Islands Group in the Pacific.

That was a response from the Prime Minister of the Cook Islands – Hon. Henry Puna to Radio Tonga’s reporter Viola Ulakai.

The question was based on the idea of forming its own Secretariat like the Melanesian Spearhead Group, but according to Mr. Puna, they are yet to decide an exact time for its establishment.

Viola Ulakai with more on the ongoing issues discussed during the Pacific Forum Leaders’ Meeting in Pohnpei.

Tonga will lead the Polynesian Islands Leaders’ Group – after members of the group agreed.

The group was formed during the previous years to look at issues concerning the Polynesian countries.

When asked the Prime Minister of Cook Islands during a press conference with him and the Prime Minister of Tuvalu on Pacific Islands States discussions – about their prior meeting of the Polynesian Leaders this week on the issue of forming their own Secretariat – the Cooks Prime Minister Puna says, the Prime Minister of Tonga was elected to be the next Chair. He went on to say that a Permanent Secretariat for the Polynesian Leaders Group has been deferred for couple of years mainly because there was a consensus that the amount of work that is required at this stage while the Organization is still growing and does not warrant a permanent secretariat.

The Media did not know about this meeting because they were not aware of it, but according to the Forum Secretariat – it was not one of the Forum Side Events. It was held away from the Forum Conference Center at the Pacific Tuna Commission’s Center early this week with six of its members attended.

They included Tonga where the Minister of Finance and National Planning Hon. Dr. Aisake Eke attended on behalf of the Prime Minister, leaders of Samoa, Tuvalu, Niue, Tokelau and Cook Islands.

But on one of the Forum’s side events held before the official opening of the 47th Pacific Forum Leaders’ meeting this afternoon was the Small Islands States’ discussions yesterday.

One of their concerns off-course was the issue with climate change. Its Chairman, the Prime Minister of Cook Islands told reporters that Climate Change is very critical and very important for the Small Islands States because of their vulnerability and fragility and the fact that they have arrived at the frontline of the impacts of Climate Change.

He says there were some discussions about access to Green Climate Fun(GCF) and one of the ways that was put forward was for them to consider a joint approach to some of the GCG and with the hope that by doing that, it might be success in-terms of getting some much needed resources from GCF.

There was also a concern over the procedures and requirements on paper work for it would be further simplified so they can access this important facility to help them adapt to effect of Climate Change.

He says the joint approach also acknowledged one reality that is common to all Islands States and that is the lack of Human Resources to work on funding proposals as these processes are very complicated and in many cases are beyond their capacity of Small Island Countries especially Small Island States where Human Resources is very much lacking.

The leaders to discuss the definition of fragility as a letter has been written and signed by the current chair of the Forum Leaders’ meeting, Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea – Mr. Peter Oneil, to the President of World Bank with regards to looking at the definition of fragility particularly because of the issues that are very specific to countries in the Pacific and its Smaller Islands States. The definition of fragility, its currently used by International Financial Institutions with regard to fragile is being conflict, is broaden to encompass issues that are induced by Climate. He says it’s a big step forward and the leaders of smaller island states to really work hard to make sure that it be changed – its definition is and pursue confrontation with World Bank and other International Financial Institutions.

Leaders of Small Islands States also raised the Air Services issue during the meeting. They took it as critical and essential to their sustainable developments and in-facts to connectivity with the rest of the world.

Meanwhile, the Prime Minister of Tuvalu reminded reporters on the theme for this year’s Pacific Leaders’ meeting, small and far – challenges for growth, he says its simply further describe the difficult situations faced by the Smaller Islands. They are small, they are vulnerable and they are very far from opportunities.

He also told reporters that critical issues, the Leaders discussed and looked at it as an option of working together and seeking the assistance of regional organizations of Forum Secretariat on providing some way forward for them to adjust. They include issues of monopolies, issues of sovereignty and decisions that they need to look at it and seek for a proper attention to challenges facing by the Smaller Islands States.

They are also concern about the importance of Air Space, the rights of Small Islands States to the Air Space, to manage it and look at its proper valuation carefully as some of them are not well informed and well aware of it because of the previous colonial arrangement.

He says the reality is, a lot of the Small Islands States have no idea that there is such a thing as Air Space and a revenue that could be made from that resource and is rightfully belong to them. They agreed to share their experiences, knowledge and to share resources so that those of them Smaller Islands States who are not currently benefiting from these resources of theirs, can do so in the near future.

The Pacific Islands Forum’s Smaller Island States meeting includes the Cook Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, Kiribati, Nauru, Palau, Tuvalu and the Republic of the Marshal Islands.

Tonga is joining today’s Pacific ACP Leaders Meeting and we’ll update on Radio Tonga issues raised from those Forum side events before the official opening of the main meeting this afternoon.

© Radio & TV Tonga News 2016