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PORT MORESBY, PNG (PNG Post-Courier, Aug. 15) – Discussions on how to revive the Melanesian Spearhead Group spirit and solidarity is expected to feature at the 16th summit that gets underway in Goroka today.

Also high on the list for deliberation by the leaders of the four-member country group — PNG, Fiji, Vanuatu and Solomon Islands — are security and trade issues.

The future of the MSG would also be discussed, with concerns over the non-payment of registration fees by the member countries.

When the MSG was formed it was agreed that each country pay a membership fee of $A54,000 (K135,644) per year. Most of the member countries have either reneged or were slow in paying their registrations, leading to the proposal to set up a secretariat to pursue this and other issues.

The MSG has not had a secretariat since its inception in March 1988.

To be conducted under the theme of "meeting social challenges through economic opportunities", the summit returns to Goroka, where the concept had its birth following concerns over New Caledonia’s Front de Liberation Nationale Kanak Socialiste (FLNKS) struggle for independence and nuclear testing by the French.

The FLNKS will have a delegation at the summit.

The senior officials meeting will discuss the issue of reviving the spirit and solidarity of the MSG.

Particular matters for discussions include a change of name to better suit the sub-region’s objectives and interests as well as having observers to the MSG.

To this end, proposals have been made for the revival of the Melanesian Spearhead Group soccer tournament or the Wantok Cup and a Melanesian Arts festival.

These discussions fall under the topic of legal, social and cultural issues, which will also cover HIV/AIDS, legal migration, reciprocal enforcement of foreign judgements and custody of children.

But of major importance are discussions on the various trade, economic and security issues that the member countries want to have in place for the communal benefit of their peoples.

On the political and security front, the leaders will be looking at issues such as the Pacific Plan, Bougainville, RAMSI, a proposed regional security force, framework for intelligence information sharing, harmonisation of airport protocols for regional leaders, maritime security and fisheries issue.

The leaders will also look at trade and economic issues, including the MSG-European Union EPA negotiations, carbon trading, MSG mineral resources committee and an air services agreement.

Trade and economic officials’ start the week with their meeting today, followed by the senior officials’ meeting tomorrow. The leaders’ summit, to be attended by the prime ministers and foreign ministers of the four countries will run from Friday to Sunday.

PNG will be led by Acting Trade and Industry Secretary Alois Taberang in today’s meeting with Foreign Affairs and Immigration Secretary Gabriel Pepson scheduled for tomorrow’s meeting.

PNG has got the largest delegation with 71 people heading to Goroka for the summit led by Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare, Sir Rabbie Namaliu and Trade and Industry Minister Paul Tiensten.

Solomon Islands Prime Minister Sir Allan Kemakaza is expected with a 22-member delegation that includes Foreign Affairs Minister Laurie Chan. Vanuatu’s Prime Minister Ham Lini Vanuaroro and the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs Sato Kilman are expected to arrive with a 21-member delegation.

Monday, August 15, 2005

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