Regional parliament on agenda at MSG summit
A possibility of a regional parliament is on the agenda of the Melanesian Spearhead Group summit underway in Noumea in New Caledonia.
At the Melanesian Spearhead Group leaders summit in New Caledonia, the Solomon Islands Prime Minister is pursuing the idea that the group consider the creation of a Melanesian regional parliament.
Gordon Darcy Lilo says the idea has great potential and could be the basis for underpinning economic and human development across Melanesia.
Mr Lilo says the 19th MSG Leaders' Summit will also feature open and frank discussion about the plight of the indigenous West Papuans of Indonesia, as the West Papua National Coalition for Liberation has applied for membership at the MSG.
Johnny Blades asked Mr Lilo if signs that the MSG would defer a decision on the application are true, but began by asking him about the idea of a Melanesian legislature.
GORDON DARCY LILO: In Melanesia, as you know, the most important thing is to really harness the potential of Melanesia, as a way to promote a more stable Pacific community. And you cannot continue to rely on aid assistance as a way to stabilise the Pacific. It has to be developed within the Pacific. And the region that has the potential to bring about that kind of more dynamic development that will stabilise the region is the Melanesian region. So we believe in this whole process of advancing development discourse, governance is very important. Legislative institutions have to be strengthened, and it must be practised in all facets to be able to build a very strong democratic society and avoid democratic deficit in a kind of situation that we've all had, which will pull back the kind of good leap that we can make out of democratic institutions in society.
JOHNNY BLADES: The MSG seems to really be growing in cohesion, and it's the power base of the Pacific Islands region, isn't it?
GDL: Well, generically speaking. People talk about Melanesia's cohesiveness in that very generic way. But you've got to build the institutions to give rise to that kind of strength of unity and co-operation. And so that is why it's important we really anchor the whole process of development agenda and all the issues that go along with international trade, trade relations, in a more fair way through this kind of legislative arrangement, so it binds the region together in a more stable way.
JB: So is it some time off?
GDL: Well, we have very robust democratic institutions that are already within our own prospective countries. I think what is important is to pull them all together to be under this kind of sub-regional legislative framework, to make them really cohesively established and giving full effect to the potentials that we have within the region.
JB: You've been credited with being a very strong voice on the West Papua issue, and, of course, this is something you leaders are going to decide on, the bid this week, or will it be deferred as the foreign ministers have kind of signalled?
GDL: I think the leaders are going to open up their thoughts around it. And I would expect a very, very good openness, you know, in the way that we talk about it. Because issues of human rights are very real and it is important that we place them in the appropriate forum to be able to look closely into the way that it has affected the Melanesian race. Remember that the MSG is not all about being racially discriminatory. It is all about harnessing the economic potentials, the development potentials, and the people within the Melanesian region. So i think there's going to be some good extension of an open mind from the leaders to look into it in a more responsible and collective way.
JB: So it may not be membership, necessarily. There might be some other things you pursue?
GDL: Of course. These are matters that you have to undertake in a gradual way, and I think it can be linked to the ultimate desire. But you can take a more incremental process in advancing this discourse to really ground the kind of understanding that we can have to bring this issue into the international arena.
JB: And does the MSG have much influence over the Indonesian control of their military in West Papua?
GDL: No, we don't have the military might. Honestly, we don't have the military might. But I think we have the real political will and the accessibility to be able to have access to the Indonesian authorities in the most friendly and the most quality engaging manner, to be able to bring this issue to the authorities in Indonesia. As you know, most countries in the Melanesian regions are members of the Coral Triangle, for instance, which also includes you, New Zealand, and therefore there's a very close co-operation and respect between Indonesia and the Melanesian region.
JB: Because the Foreign Ministers Meeting said that it was going to be deferred, is that the outcome or do we have to wait and see what the Leaders' Summit comes up with in terms of whether that formal bid is accepted for membership, by the Coalition for Liberation?
GDL: Well, the retreat is tomorrow and leaders have an open and flexible opportunity to talk over so many issues.
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