Hon Rimbink Pato, LLB, OBE, MP Minister for Foreign Affairs and Immigration of Papua New Guinea, led mission to Tahiti.
Papua New Guinea Minister for Foreign Affairs and Immigration, Rimbink Pato, has welcomed the next step in the process to consider French Polynesia's application to become a full member of the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF).Minister Pato led the PIF Ministerial Mission to French Polynesia from 20 – 24 July 2015, in Papeete, Tahiti.
The purpose of the mission was to assess and to provide a report with findings and recommendations on French Polynesia's application.
"The people and Government of French Polynesia make an important contribution to economic and cultural exchange in the Pacific," Minister Pato said.
"In recent weeks we had a large team from French Polynesia competing in the Pacific Games and they were most welcome.
"The Pacific Islands Forum is a democratic process and it is import that we have consultation between stakeholders on such an important issue as admitting a new member.
"Admitting a new member in the Forum is not decision that is taken lightly.
"Now we must follow procedures as set by the Pacific Islands Forum for the consideration of this application."
Minister Pato expressed satisfaction in the way in which the meetings in Tahiti were structured and carried out.
"Our delegation met with a cross-section of people and organisations to obtain views. This included the President and his Cabinet Ministers, Church Leaders, Political Parties, Trade Unions, Chamber of Commerce, Women Council and Unions, and Tahitian Academics.
"We also spoke with the opposition parties of the French Polynesian Legislature led by Oscar Temaru which seeks self-determination."
Minister Pato outlined in each meeting that the Mission was tasked to collect information, assess and report back to Forum Leaders so they can to make a decision during the 46th PIF to be held in Papua New Guinea, in September, 2015.
"The main focus of the Assessment Inquiry Mission was to obtain a very clear understanding of the level of local exercise of powers over political, administrative, finance and defence matters.
"This is specifically under the Constitution of the French Republic and the Organic Law (Statute) that governs French Polynesia. The Statute provides for power-sharing between the French Republic and the Government of French Polynesia.
"The discussions examined with all stakeholders possible existing Pacific States models of local governance applicable for obtaining full membership under PIF Instruments.
"Those discussions were interesting, constructive and certainly added clarity for all on many issues."
The report of the Mission is being finalised by the PIF Secretariat for presentation to Leaders.
Minister Pato expressed his gratitude to the Government and people of French Polynesia in demonstrating great hospitality and friendship during their short stay in Papeete, Tahiti.
The Ministerial Mission was led by Minister Pato and accompanied by Ambassador Francis Matsutaro, Palau's Ambassador to Japan (Special Envoy of the President of Palau as current Chair of the Forum), Dame Meg Taylor, Secretary General of PIF, Deputy Secretary General, Ms Andie Fong Toy, staff from the PIF Secretariat and Mr Noel Leana from the PNG High Commission in Wellington.
In 2004, French Polynesia was granted observer status in the Forum. The following year, former President, Oscar Temaru, wrote to the then Forum Secretary General, Greg Urwin, to advise of discussions underway with France of the possibility of applying for full membership.
Ten years later in 2014, former president, Gaston Flosse wrote to the then Forum Secretary General, Tuiloma Neroni Slade, formally requesting to be integrated as a full member of the Forum. This request was re-submitted by the current President, H.E. Edouard Fritch, on 5 December 2014 to Secretary General, Dame Meg Taylor, and this Ministerial Mission was undertaken.