The Pacific Islands Forum Secretary General, Henry Puna, seeks invite to Biden-Pacific Leaders’ Summit after hearing reports of no plans by Washington to invite him
THE Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum, Henry Puna, is in the United States in the hope US President, Joe Biden, would change his mind and invite him to attend the Pacific Islands Leaders’ summit in Washington next week.
Mr Puna, a former Cook Islands Prime Minister, is the head of the region’s premiere organisation representing some 18 Pacific nations. According to reports from the Suva-based Forum Secretariat, the PIF has been left out of President Biden’s Pacific Islands Leaders’ summit which begins in Washington next Wednesday.
The two-day summit is based on commitment by President Biden and Vice President, Kamala Harris that the “US will be responsive to our priorities and deepen its engagement in the Pacific Islands.”
Reports from Fiji said the US had no plan to invite the Secretary General at all when plans for the summit were drawn up.
“PIFS has been very disappointed with the meeting arrangement and requested to rearrange it by sending official letters and having several meetings but received no positive response. SG Puna is now in the US in the hope of being invited to the summit,” the reports said.
The reports said the White House has decided to not invite Secretary General Henry Puna and some of Forum membership to this summit, which deeply hurts our feelings and disrespects the 2050 strategy for the Blue Pacific Continent, and the Blue Pacific Principles for Dialogue and Engagement which calls for regional solidarity,” a spokesman speaking on condition of anonymity told Solomon Star.
“It seems that the intent behind their Indo-Pacific Strategy is to selfishly bring more benefit to US and its allies instead of boosting the development of Pacific Islands’ nations.
The Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat (PIFS) and its membership have formally expressed their disappointment over the matter to the US many times and requested that Washington reconsider their arrangement.
“ … but all our requests were rejected. We feel like being tricked. But we don’t want to get them mad by releasing an official statement to publicize our sentiment.”
By Alfred Sasako