Article by AsiaPacificReport.nz
By Jane Joshua in Port Vila
Solomon Islands Prime Minister and chairman of the Melanesian Spearhead Group, Manasseh Sogavare, has revealed that the Solomon Islands will support Vanuatu’s stand for full MSG membership for West Papua.
“You have my full support, Prime Minister,” Sogavare told the head of the Vanuatu government, Prime Minister Charlot Salwai, yesterday.
He said it was time for West Papua to be “elevated” and become a member of the MSG.
The Vanuatu 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 was a strong group and its member countries rise over all problems and face them in 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 had been thrown into, the current government was committed to ensuring the Pacific Mini Games would take place as planned in Port Vila in 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.
Prime Minister Salwai revealed that he would be travelling to New Caledonia next week, where he would make time to talk to Front de Libération Nationale Kanak et Socialiste (FLNKS) leader Victor Tutugoro. He would convey the 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 were outside influences, apparently referring to the high profile Indonesian diplomatic campaign into trying to woo Fiji and Papua New Guinea, in particular, the MSG belonged to “us”.
Custom and tradition
Custom, culture and tradition must be revisited, Salwai said, adding that Melanesia represented a large mass of the people and land in the Pacific region.
Salwai said the issue of the new MSG director-general was a small issue and the member countries would cooperate because they were “one”.
He dismissed allegations that Vanuatu had stopped the new MSG director-general, Fijian diplomat Amena Yauvoli from coming to Port Vila.
“The Vanuatu government merely raised the issue of the process of the appointment but did not stop the new director-general from coming over,” Prime Minister Salwai said.
He commended the prime minister and people of Solomon Islands for their understanding about the border between the two countries – Solomon Islands and Vanuatu – indicating a visit in the near future.
PM Salwai said Vanuatu would continue to support Solomon Islands PM Sogavare as chairman of the MSG.
Jane Joshua is a reporter on the Vanuatu Daily Post.