Solomon Islands PM Supports MSG Membership For West Papua

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Pacific Islands Development Program, East-West Center With Support From Center for Pacific Islands Studies, University of Hawai‘i

Sogavare, current chairman of MSG, aligns position with Vanuatu

By Jane Joshua

PORT VILA, Vanuatu (Vanuatu Daily Post, May 13, 2016) – Solomon Islands Prime Minister and Chairman of the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG), Manasseh Sogavare, yesterday revealed that Solomon Islands will support Vanuatu’s stand for full MSG Membership, for West Papua.

"You have my full support Prime Minister," Mr. Sogavare told the head of the Vanuatu Government, Prime Minister Charlot Salwai.

He said it is time for West Papua, to be "elevated" and be a member of the MSG.

The incumbent Government led by Prime Minister Salwai wants to see the United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP), which currently holds Observer Status admitted as a full member into the MSG.

The Council of Ministers endorsed the decision to instruct the government to include the ULMWP’s full MSG membership status as part of the agenda in the MSG Leaders Summit scheduled to take place this month but then postponed to a date yet to be confirmed.

"We will support what you have discussed," the Solomon Islands Prime minister told PM Salwai.

He said the MSG is a strong group and its member countries rise over all problems and face them in the true Melanesian spirit.

PM Sogavare said the solidarity of the Melanesian countries was exemplified this week in Port Vila when the five Melanesian countries supported Solomon Islands’ bid to host the next Pacific Games.

Prime minister Salwai congratulated PM Sogavare on Solomon Islands’ successful bid.

He said despite the political crisis the country was thrown into, the incumbent government is committed to ensuring the Pacific Mini Games will take place as planned in Port Vila come 2017.

The Vanuatu PM thanked PM Sogavare, the government and people of Solomon Islands for their decision to support the Vanuatu government on its stand for West Papua to gain full membership into the MSG in the next Leaders’ Summit in Papua New Guinea after the African, Caribbean and Pacific countries meeting.

PM Salwai further revealed that he will be travelling to New Caledonia next week, where he will make time to talk to Front de Libération Nationale Kanak et Socialiste (FLNKS) Leader Victor Tutugoro and he will convey Solomon Islands’ decision to support Vanuatu on full MSG Membership for West Papua.

"I wish to reiterate that we are cousins, brothers and we will work together for our common interests," he told PM Sogavare.

He said while there are outside influences, the MSG belongs to "us" and custom, culture and tradition must be revisited, adding that Melanesia represents a large mass of the people and land in the region.

Salwai further said the issue of the new MSG Director General is a small issue and the member countries will cooperate because they are "one".

He dismissed allegations that Vanuatu has stopped the new MSG DG, Fijian Diplomat Amena Yauvoli from coming to Vanuatu.

"The Vanuatu government merely raised the issue of the process of appointment but did not stop the new DG from coming over," PM Salwai said.

He commended the Prime minister and people of Solomon Islands for their understanding on the border between the two countries, indicating a visit in the near future.

PM Salwai said Vanuatu will continue to support Solomon Islands PM Sogavare as chairman of the MSG.

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