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HONIARA, Solomon Islands (January 24, 2001 - Solomon Star/PINA Nius Online)---The proposal to establish a Melanesian Spearhead Group Secretariat has been welcomed by former senior Solomon Islands Foreign Affairs official Bernard Bata‘anisia.

Now senior adviser on political issues at the Fiji-based Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, Mr. Bata‘anisia said it is important that the Melanesian Spearhead Group has a secretariat.

He said a number of decisions agreed on by Melanesian leaders and officials in the past have not been acted upon or implemented.

In some cases, he added, these same issues and decisions kept reappearing on the agenda. This, he said, was due to the lack of a follow-up mechanism.

"That is why it is important that a secretariat is established, to follow up on decisions made by the MSG leaders," Mr. Bata‘anisia said.

The Melanesian Spearhead Group was formed in 1986. At that time the group consisted of Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands. Since then Fiji has become a member, along with the main pro-independence Kanak group of New Caledonia, the FLNKS.

Trade and economic issues have become a focus of Melanesian Spearhead Group activities. This led to the starting of a Melanesian Spearhead Group economic and trade officials meeting, which has concentrated on developing trade and transport links among the Melanesian countries.

Mr. Bata‘anisia said the establishment of a secretariat would help facilitate decisions and necessary follow-ups.

He added that the cost of establishing such a secretariat needs to be considered very carefully by member countries to ensure that it does not become a burden on them.

He hoped that the report of a consultant looking at the issue would address the funding of the secretariat.

Mr. Bata‘anisia led the Solomon Islands delegation at the Melanesian Spearhead Group economic and trade officials meeting that was held in Honiara in 1997.

During his years with the Solomon Islands government, he held senior positions in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, including head of the South Pacific Regional Section from 1995 to 1997.

He also served at the Solomon Islands mission to the United Nations in New York, from 1992 to 1994.

He joined the Forum Secretariat in early 1998 as a political issues adviser. His contract with the Forum Secretariat has been renewed and he is returning to Fiji soon to begin his second three-year term.

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