Fiji's Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama has handed over the chairmanship of the Melanesian Spearhead Group to New Caledonia's FLNKS movement.
The handover took place at the 19th MSG leaders summit in Noumea, from where Johnny Blades reports.
"MSG leaders converged on the Tjibaou Cultural Centre last night for the handover ceremony in which the outgoing chair told those in attendance that the sub-regional grouping had gone from strength to strength in recent years. Taking stock of achievements under his two-year chairmanship, Commodore Bainimarama spoke about growing trade and cultural links between Melanesian states and mentioned the foundations being laid for a Melanesian security response force. The issue of decolonisation has significant resonance at this summit hosted by New Caledonia's indigenous Kanaks and the FLNKS spokesman Victor Tutugoro used his chairmanship acceptance speech to underline MSG support for the West Papuan people of Indonesia. But while the FLNKS is involved with an official timeline to possible independence and is a strong supporter of the West Papuan application to join the MSG, it's clear that some members of the group wish to defer a decision on the bid."