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By Johnshon Honimae

HONIARA, Solomon Islands (Solomon Star, Aug. 18) – Solomon Islands and other members of the Melanesian Spearhead Group have been called on to prove the skeptics, "who call Melanesia the arch of instability or the doomsayers who characterise us as failed or weak states", wrong once again.

Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare said this during a speech at a dinner he hosted for Solomon Islands Prime Minister, Sir Allan Kemakeza and Vanuatu Prime Minister, Ham Lini in Port Moresby Tuesday night.

Sir Michael said the MSG has come a long way from its simple beginnings in 1986.

"When we first mooted the idea of cooperation among Melanesian States, not many people took us seriously. Cynics in fact joked that we would not survive more than five years.

"How wrong they were! Nineteen years on and we are still here and growing strong," Sir Michael said.

Sir Michael, who will chair the 16th MSG Summit this week in Goroka, said if one looks at the Pacific Islands Forum today you will see the Group’s footprints were on many of the trade and economic issues.

He said that MSG was the pioneer of sub-regional cooperation in trade through the MSG Trade Agreement when others were too scared to open up their economies to cooperation.

"Today trade and economic cooperation is the ‘buzz word’ in the region."

Sir Michael said over the years the MSG had spearheaded many of the regional initiatives by the Forum including the existing Regional Security arrangements, the greater powers of autonomy for New Caledonia, the nuclear free Pacific concept were to a large extent to the force that MSG was able to bring to bear on these issues.

"Let us therefore renew this spirit of MSG cooperation," Sir Michael said.

He said as chairman of this week’s MSG Leaders summit he had included a number of new issues for discussion.

This included rationalisation of air links, harmonising immigration and labour laws, establishing a rapid response mechanism to assist in natural disasters and in times of political and social unrest and helping its MSG country into the study of Carbon Trade.

"Let our Goroka Meeting, the birth place of our Melanesian Spearhead Group, provide us the inspiration to strengthen our cooperation in all facets of our relationship,"

Sir Michael said the people of Melanesia have their dignity to uphold and "I know that the Melanesians are a proud people and we will make MSG stronger and its countries economically and politically more resilient and prosperous."

The 16th MSG Leaders Summit will be held in the Eastern Highlands capital town of Goroka from 19 - 20 August.

This is being preceded by the trade and economic officers meeting, which started Tuesday, the senior officials meeting, the Foreign Ministers meeting and the Leaders Summit.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

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