Saturday, June 20, 2015

1) Melanesian leaders meet to discuss trade, security and development

2) Solomon Islands endorses West Papua observer status in MSG 
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West Papua high on MSG agenda
1) Melanesian leaders meet to discuss trade, security and development
 By Nic Maclellan in Honiara
Sat 20 Jun 2015



Morning Star, flag of West Papua's pro independence groups, greet delegates arriving at the Honiara International Airport for the summit of the Melanesian Spearhead Group.-- Photo: Samisoni Pareti
Nearly 1,000 people marched through the streets of Honiara on Friday to show their support for West Papuan self-determination, as Melanesian leaders gather for an important summit in the Solomon Islands capital.
The application by the United Liberation Movement of West Papua (ULMWP) for membership of the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) is high on the agenda at this week’s meeting. 
The MSG membership includes Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Fiji and the Front de Liberation Nationale Kanak et Socialiste (FLNKS), the Kanak independence coalition of New Caledonia.
The debate over West Papua is affected by strengthening relations between Fiji, Papua New Guinea and Indonesia, which has held MSG observer status since 2011. With a strong contingent of West Papuan leaders in Honiara to lobby for support, the membership application is being widely debated in the Solomon Islands media. But the Melanesian officials, foreign ministers and prime ministers who meet this week have a full agenda, with policy discussions on trade, sport, policing and the region’s overarching plan for the next 25 years, known as the “MSG 2038 Prosperity for All Plan.”
Popular support
The growing awareness of Indonesian human rights violations in West Papua, spread through Facebook and other social media, has transformed public awareness of the issue in Solomon Islands and other MSG countries. 
Around Honiara, young people are wearing Morning Star T-shirts, while leading Solomon Islands academic Tarcisius Tara Kabutaulaka has called for action in a widely re-published opinion piece. The noted PNG musician George Telek performed at a public concert near Honiara’s Chinatown this weekend, in solidarity with the West Papuan movement.
But popular support for the ULMWP membership bid – including hundreds of people rallying in Jayapura and other towns in West Papua – has not yet ensured MSG governments agreement. After an earlier application was deferred in 2013, Papua New Guinea and Fiji have both endorsed Jakarta’s opposition to full membership for the ULMWP. In contrast, the FLNKS and - until earlier this month - Vanuatu have been staunch supporters.
On Thursday, Solomon Islands Prime Minister Mannasseh Sogavare announced that his government “will endorse West Papua to be an observer of the MSG and this observer status is given only to one united group. Solomon Islands government will agree that any submission for full membership of the MSG by a group representing Melanesians Indonesia must be united and done in consultation with Indonesia as agreed by MSG leaders in 2013 2014.”
Sogavare also announced that the Solomon Islands government would “encourage MSG to continue to explore avenues for Indonesia in its interest to be an associate member of MSG, within the guidelines approved by leaders in 2013 and 2014.”
Honiara’s compromise proposal has been met with criticism from a range of Solomon Islands church, community and political leaders, who have rallied public support for the ULMWP (a broad coalition of West Papuan nationalist groups which includes the National Parliament for West Papua, the Federal Republic of West Papua, and the National Coalition for Liberation).
Vanuatu has long led the regional support for West Papuan self-determination. But Vanuatu’s participation in this week’s summit has been a source of uncertainty, following the recent no-confidence motion that brought down the government of Prime Minister Joe Natuman, in favour of his former Foreign Minister Sato Kilman Livtuvanu. 
Natuman is a long-time supporter of independence for West Papua and New Caledonia. In contrast, while serving previously as Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, Kilman has sought to expand Vanuatu’s ties to Indonesia. While the ongoing dispute in Port Vila is driven by domestic concerns and a court case over alleged corruption, the fallout will affect the ULMWP’s application. 
With a court challenge scheduled for Monday afternoon and the possibility of another urgent no-confidence motion in the wind, the fluid situation in Port Vila has left MSG officials awaiting news of Vanuatu’s final delegation to the leaders’ summit on Thursday and Friday.
MSG’s broad agenda
Since its founding in 1988, the MSG has developed a diverse portfolio of activities. The “MSG 2038 Prosperity for all Plan,” to be discussed this week, grew out of the work of an Eminent Persons Group led by former Fiji Foreign Minister Kaliopate Tavola, and provides a roadmap for sub-regional activities over the next 25 years.
The MSG Secretariat in Port Vila now coordinates a complex range of ministerial meetings and technical working groups, including the MSG Green Growth Framework; the MSG Trade Agreement; an Inshore Fisheries Roadmap; and discussions between CEOs of Melanesian National Provident and Pension Funds and Governors of Central Banks.
In Honiara this week, leaders will discuss the third phase of the MSG Trade Agreement (MSGTA3), an inter-island treaty first signed in 1993. The MSG’s original focus on trade in goods has now been superseded by a much broader agenda, focused on trade in services, intellectual property regimes and labour mobility. Before the summit, MSG Director for Trade, Investment and Economic Development Peni Sikivou said: “The MSGTA is being reviewed and under its current draft version, abbreviated as MSGTA3, new chapters on Services, Investment, Labour Mobility and Government Procurement are being incorporated into the Agreement.”
In 2014, MSG trade ministers adopted the Port Moresby Declaration, calling for free trade amongst the Melanesian nations by 2017. At this week’s summit in Honiara, officials and foreign ministers will review the reports of technical working groups on services and investment, and discuss the MSG Private Sector Development (PSD) Strategy that is supported under the EU-funded Pacific Integration Technical Assistance Project (PITAP).
The announcement this week that Australia will expand its Seasonal Worker Program (SWP) raises important opportunities for the Melanesian countries, which are seeking to increase remittance flows to their economies. But the context for Australia’s offer - that Pacific leaders must sign on to the proposed PACER-Plus free trade agreement - will raise questions for countries about how much to open their services and finance sectors to corporations from Australia and New Zealand.
Meetings, meetings, meetings
On Thursday and Friday, officials considered a draft Implementation Framework for the “MSG 2038 Prosperity for all Plan,” to be presented to minister and leaders this week. Agenda items also covered the Melanesian Festival of Arts and Culture (MFAC), and the MSG Observer Mission to Fiji’s 2014 Elections. 
A major focus of the MSG Secretariat’s work is security, with the MSG considering the establishment of a MSG Security/Defence Ministers Meeting, to parallel the regional South Pacific Defence Ministers Meeting first held in 2013. Since 2011, the MSG has also been developing an agreement to establish a Regional Police Academy
On Monday and Tuesday, the MSG Foreign Ministers Meeting (FMM) will include the outgoing chair Caroline Machoro-Reignier of New Caledonia’s Kanak Socialist National Liberation Front (FLNKS), together with foreign ministers Rimbink Pato of Papua New Guinea, Ratu Inoke Kubuabola of Fiji, and Milner Tozaka of Solomon Islands. Vanuatu’s representation is in flux with a court case in Port Vila scheduled for Monday afternoon.
PNG Prime Minister Peter O’Neill will travel to Solomon Islands following a week-long visit to Europe, where he led a delegation of government and industry figures seeking greater investment from the United Kingdom and other EU nations in PNG’s booming oil and gas sector. Later this week, O’Neill will formally inaugurate a new PNG high commission in Honiara, a reflection of PNG’s expanding investment in hotels, tourism and other sectors in fellow MSG countries.
The PNG leader will also be consulting with MSG partners over core agenda items for the next meeting of the Pacific Islands Forum, which will be held in Papua New Guinea in September. 
The new Secretary General of the Forum Secretariat, Dame Meg Taylor, made her first visit to the MSG Secretariat in Port Vila last February. Taylor, a former PNG ambassador to the United Nations and long-serving official of the World Bank Group, is coordinating a new Framework for Pacific regionalism, with a regional subcommittee developing proposals to put before leaders at the PNG Forum.
With Papua New Guinea also scheduled to host the next APEC Summit in 2018, decisions taken this week in Honiara around trade, security and West Papua will also affect Port Moresby’s vision of providing a bridge between the Pacific islands and the emerging Asian economies.
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2) Solomon Islands endorses West Papua observer status in MSG –
08:00 Today
United Liberation Movement for West Papua has acknowledged has welcomed Solomon Islands Government’s decision to endorse West Papua’s observer status of the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG). The decision comes as MSG leaders are preparing to meet in Honiara next week. Secretary General of the Movement Octovianus Mote, Prime Minister, Manasseh Sogavare, and his Cabinet, in exercising its decision making mandate on behalf of the people of Solomon Islands. He says Solomon Islands has paved the path to bring West Papua back to the Melanesian family and this is a courageous decision. The General Secretary also thanked the Governments of Vanuatu and FLNKS (Kanaky) for their long term support for West Papua as well as the solidarity movements in Fiji and Papua New Guinea, and continues to appeal to both governments. -

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