Pacific leader’s bold bid to become head of the Commonwealth

Tuvalu’s former governor general Sir Iakoba Italeli is hoping for a unanimous backing from Pacific nations in his bid to become the secretary general of the Commonwealth.

He has the belief that even after the Pacific Island Forum’s leadership saga, the region is still united and can provide him the support he needs to lead the Commonwealth.

Mr Italeli has become the first person from a Pacific Small Island Developing State to campaign for the position.

Sir Iakoa Italeli. Picture: Facebook

“I am proud of Tuvalu and the Pacific and think they should have the chance to lead and unite the Commonwealth,” he said.

“Many have raised that there are problems with the current Commonwealth Secretariat and that the Secretariat could function better.

“I hope to serve as a consensus candidate who can bring the different interests of the Commonwealth together and progress the organisation forward.”

Tuvalu is perhaps the smallest of the nations that make the Commonwealth membership. Its nine islands comprise of small, thinly populated atolls and reef islands with palm-fringed beaches.

During very high tidal events most of the land mass is underwater. Mr Italeli believes that coming from the small island nation has allowed him to realise what he can do to improve things.

Mr Italeli said the Commonwealth currently does not do as much as it should for the Pacific and he wants to change that.

When Henry Puna was appointed secretary general of the Pacific Island Forum Secretariat, the Micronesian leaders cried foul saying a gentlemen’s agreement had been made to make way for an incumbent from their region to lead.

Mr Puna’s appointment even led to the Micronesian states wanting to exit the PIF, something which has not happened yet.

Funafuti Atoll, the biggest in Tuvalu. Picture: Tuvalu Government

Mr Italeli believes the spirit of regionalism still prevails.

“I believe in the spirit of regionalism reflected in our Pacific shared values and the Pacific-Way that has bonded us as a Region and on that belief I look forward to the support of the Pacific,” he said.

“There is already interest and support, but the Pacific Islands Leaders have not met face to face for such a long time, that it is difficult to have real and meaningful discussions about my campaign.

“Tuvalu is looking forward to the opportunity of the upcoming Pacific Islands Forum Foreign Ministers Meeting and Forum Leaders Meeting to formalise Pacific support for my campaign.

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“I think the Pacific will always be united–we can’t think of the Pacific as defined by one organization. Our nations have deep cultural roots and ties to the land and ocean that bring us together regardless of short-term sagas or disagreements.

“We are also connected by common concerns, especially climate change, and this will always ensure our unified and congenial actions.”

The secretary-general is elected at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting which was last held in 2018 and postponed twice in 2020.

It has however been confirmed that Rwanda would host the high-level meeting under the theme ‘Delivering a Common Future: Connecting, Innovating, Transforming’ where a new Commonwealth secretary-general will also be selected.

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