16 Mar 2017

Solomons PM discusses MSG matters in Moresby

9:14 am on 16 March 2017

The prime minister of Solomon Islands, Manasseh Sogavare has traveled to Papua New Guinea to discuss Melanesian Spearhead Group issues and other matters.

The MSG Chair and Prime Minister of Solomon Islands Manasseh Sogavare (L) and PNG Prime Minister Peter O'Neill (R)  at Sir Manasupe Haus.

The MSG Chair and Prime Minister of Solomon Islands Manasseh Sogavare (L) and PNG Prime Minister Peter O'Neill (R) at Sir Manasupe Haus. Photo: Solomon Islands PM's Press Secretariat

In his capacity as MSG chairman Mr Sogavare was due to have discussions with PNG's prime minister Peter O'Neill, covering membership issues and an independent review of the workings of the MSG Secretariat.

The secretariat has been hampered by under-funding over recent years amid signs of wavering commitment by some full members.

Fiji prime minister Frank Bainimarama listens to a speech at the plenary session of the Melanesian Spearhead Group leaders summit in Noumea in 2013.

Fiji prime minister Frank Bainimarama listens to a speech at the plenary session of the Melanesian Spearhead Group leaders summit in Noumea in 2013. Photo: RNZI / Johnny Blades

The five full members - PNG, Solomon Islands, Fiji, Vanuatu and New Caledonia's FLNKS Kanak movement - have also been divided over whether to grant West Papuans full membership.

The United Liberation Movement for West Papua was granted observer status in the group in 2015, when Indonesia was simultaneously granted associate member status.

Both have been pushing for full membership.

Solomons PM Manaseh Sogavare and leaders of the United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP)

Solomons PM Manaseh Sogavare and leaders of the United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP) Photo: Facebook

The MSG secreariat has been tasked with establishing clear guidelines on membership before a decision on these bids can be made.

Mr Sogavare, who is in PNG as the final leg on his gradual tour of MSG members' capitals since last year, will also push for PNG to sign off on the new MSG trade agreement.

Also up for discussion between Mr Sogavare and Mr O'Neill are outcomes from the latest MSG Police Ministers' Meeting and MSG maritime boundaries.

Fiji Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama and Chief of Indonesian National Police, Police General Tito Karnavian

Fiji Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama and Chief of Indonesian National Police, Police General Tito Karnavian Photo: supplied Fiji Dept of Information

Mr Sogavare yesterday was the first foreign Prime Minister to call on PNG's new Governor-General Sir Bob Dadae since he took office on the 28th of February.

Sir Bob's appointment as the 10th Governor General of Papua New Guinea followed the death of his predecessor Sir Michael Ogio who on the 19th of February.

Papua New Guinea's Governor-General Bob Dadae.

Papua New Guinea's Governor-General Bob Dadae. Photo: EMTV

Mr Sogavare and Sir Bob expressed the desire to see the relationship between the two countries taken to new heights through enhanced bilateral co-operation programmes.

They also touched on the new MSG Trade Agreement which Solomon Islands and Fiji have already signed and expressed optimism that PNG and Vanuatu will also sign the agreement.