Prime Minister Hon. James Marape says he is pleased with the outcomes of the recently-concluded 22nd Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) Leaders’ Summit and related meetings.

The Leaders’ Summit was chaired by Vanuatu Prime Minister Hon. Alatoi Ishmael Kalsakau, and attended by Prime Minister Marape; Fijian Prime Minister Hon. Sitiveni Rabuka; Solomon Islands Prime Minister Hon. Manasseh Sogavare; and Front De Liberation Nationale Socialiste (FLNKS) Spokesperson, Mr Victor Tutugoro.

Also in attendance were Associate Member Indonesia, Observer United Liberation Movement of West Papua (ULMWP), as well as Special Guests and Development Partners Australia and China.

In his opening remarks of the country statement Prime Minister Marape recognized the importance of the Melanesian States combined air, land and sea space including its vast natural resources that could be strategically translated into tangible economic outcomes to sustain the MSG economies through increased trade partnerships as well as cultural cooperation.

High on the agenda, included Climate Change and Nuclear Waste issues, Security concerns in the Pacific and Human Rights, Melanesian Free Trade Agreement, the Decolonisation Process in New Caledonia, Application for full MSG Membership by ULMWP, the Progress Report of the status of the MSG Secretariat by the Director-General, Proposal for a Standing Chart to Appoint MSG Candidates for Regional & International Positions, MSG Candidacy for the Regional Director for the Western Pacific Office for World Health Organisation (WHO) in Manila, Candidacy for the Director-General of the Forum Fisheries Agency in Honiara, Vanuatu’s Bid to Host the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) Meeting in 2030, a Report by Special Guests China and Australia, and Date and Venue of the Next MSG Leaders’ Summit in Suva, Fiji in 2024.

On Climate Change, Leaders resolved to submit a request for participation in the International Court of Justice (ICJ) proceedings by Vanuatu to progress MSG Climate Change issues at global fora. This is to ensure appropriate Climate Change adaptation and mitigation support from the global community to ensure access to global climate funding.

In addition, Leaders endorsed their call for a Just Transition to Fossil Fuel-free Pacific which greatly complements regional initiatives for a green economy.

In terms of Japan’s intention to discharge it’s Fukushima Nuclear Treated Wastewater, the collective stand is that Leaders opposed the discharge and requested for a PIF scientific panel of experts to further analyze the safety aspects of the treated wastewater.

For Security issues, Leaders noted the MSG Security Strategy to be submitted by the MSG Police Ministers to further progress the strategy including the proposed MSG Security Force to assist with natural disasters.

On the West Papua issue, Leaders reaffirmed the sovereignty of Indonesia over West Papua and urged for the implementation of the decision of the PIF Leaders in August 2019 for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to conduct a mission to West Papua provinces.

With regards to the Comprehensive Melanesian Free Trade Agreement, Leaders acknowledged the immediate need for member countries, especially PNG and Vanuatu to immediately undertake their domestic processes to complete the requirements before signature and ratification. Once this comes into force, it will cover Service Industries. Currently, this Trade Agreement only covers trade in goods.

In terms of the Decolonisation of New Caledonia, Leaders agreed for the  matter to remain on the United Nations Committee of 24 on Decolonisation, including the MSG request through the UN to provide a report on the credibility on the Third Referendum on New Caledonia.

In relation to the application of the ULMWP, leaders noted that the grouping did not meet the criteria under the MSG Constitution and Criteria for full membership.

“For the progress report by the MSG Director-General Mr Leornard Louma, I am pleased to inform that since assuming office, Mr Louma is bringing about a change management in accounting for policy and funding. This is indeed an indication of sound and prudent management of the MSG organization and Mr Louma – a PNG citizen and seasoned, respected and experienced civil servant – is highly commended,” said PM Marape.

“In fact, the Secretariat is embarking on a restructure exercise that will see most of the positions from the Deputy Director-General to desk level being filled.

“On this occasion, I am pleased to announce that the PNG Forestry and Fisheries Authorities will fund a fisheries and forestry position within the Secretariat structure.

“Note that PNG has also paid its annual membership contribution to the Secretariat and that has been confirmed by the MSG Secretariat.

“As for the MSG candidacies for the Regional Director of WHO by the Government of Solomon Islands, and the Director-General of the Forum Fisheries Agency by the Government of Fiji, I pledged the PNG Government’s support.

“I also supported Vanuatu’s bid to host the PIF Leaders’ Summit in 2030, and noted the next MSG Leaders’ Summit and Related Meetings in Suva, Fiji in 2024.

“On the bi-lateral front, I affirmed PNG’s commitment of K10 million to fund the restoration and rehabilitation of the Kumul-Walter Lini Highway. This is a major landmark which was christened following the successful restoration of peace and democracy by the PNG Defence Force following the Jimmy Stevens-led rebellion of 1980,” said PM Marape.

Prime Minister Marape also requested the Vanuatu Prime Minister to resolve issues concerning the mutual recognition of Qualifications of PNG citizens residing in Vanuatu for employment opportunities in their Public Service. Additionally, Prime Minister Marape stated that he would also be requesting for a small portion of land within Port Vila where PNG citizens and the adopted Vanuatu community from the Island of Torba to conduct their activities. It should be noted that the Torba Islanders were adopted to take care of the PNG delegation during the opening of the MSG Secretariat in 2012. This relationship exists to this day and, whenever there is a high-level PNG prime ministerial delegation and other cultural exchanges to Port Vila, comes into play.