The annual summit of the Pacific Islands Forum takes place this week in Samoa, but, as we hear from Neal Conan in today’s Pacific News Minute, some leaders will not attend, while other governments will send caretakers.
This year’s summit was supposed to be a victory lap for French Pacific policy. After many years of maneuvering, Paris finally persuaded the Forum membership to overlook qualms about decolonization and admit both French Polynesia and New Caledonia as full members. As a sweetener, tiny Walis and Futuna was admitted to membership in the Polynesian Leadership sub group.
Edouard Fritch, the President of French Polynesia, is on hand in Apia, but New Caledonia was forced to send a caretaker. Following elections dominated by anti-independence parties, they have been unable to elect a president.
In 2015, the same splits on the loyalist side paralyzed the government for weeks, until the pro-independence camp broke the deadlock. Phillipe Germain emerged as president, and he will attend this year’s summit.
The government of Tonga is also in the hands of a caretaker government after the King dissolved parliament and called new elections last month. That vote comes up in November.
The Prime Minister of Fiji, Frank Bainimara, annually refuses to attend the summit meeting of a group he proclaims to be unfairly dominated by Australia and New Zealand. Because of looming elections in New Zealand, Prime Minister Bill English will send his deputy to the Samoa Summit, and Tommy Remengesau, the president of Palau, is traveling to Japan to discuss the North Korea crisis with other U.S. Pacific allies.