Report – By Rachel Reeves on Rarotonga
The Polynesian Leaders Group is seriously considering admitting Hawai’i, Rapa Nui and Aotearoa Māori into its fold.
The communiqué containing its final decision is not being released until Friday.
Three Polynesian groups made submissions on Saturday to the leaders of the eight Polynesian nations that comprise the PLG – Samoa, Tonga, Tuvalu, Cook Islands, Niue, American Samoa, French Polynesia and Tokelau.
Prime Minister Henry Puna and Samoa’s Prime Minister Tuilaepa Malielegaoi briefed media at the conclusion of their closed PLG meeting, which started at 9am on Saturday and stretched into the evening, about 5pm.
Saturday marked the second meeting of the PLG, which was formed by memorandum of understanding last year, but the group’s first formal meeting.
Tuilaepa and Puna emphasised to Pacific journalists that the group was not established to counter the influence of the Melanesian Spearhead Group, but to unite leaders of a geographical cluster of countries, which face reasonably similar challenges and limitations.
“It should be added that the PLG was not set up to compete with other groupings within the Forum. I need to make that very clear, however what we’re looking for and what we’ve found is that it is possible to have groupings within this wider grouping of the Pacific for where we can have a lot of commonalities,” Puna said.
At Saturday’s meeting, three Polynesian peoples made submissions to the leaders in an effort to gain admission to the PLG – a group from Rapa Nui, a group representing 56 Māori tribes of New Zealand, and a group representing the indigenous Hawai’ian community.
“The [Māori] iwi especially gave us a very long presentation today which illustrated their vast experience in terms of managing their affairs for such a large group of 56 tribes,” Tuilaepa said.
Leaders will be considering the submissions of all three groups, and finalising their decision in a communiqué that will be released by the Forum’s end.
Rachel Reeves is political reporter of the Cook Islands News.