Prime Minister Rick Houenipwela leaves today for the 21st Melanesia Spearhead Group (MSG) summit in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea.
He is leading a seven-member delegation.
In Port Moresby, Houenipwela is expected to hand-over the MSG chairmanship to his PNG counterpart Peter O’Neill.
This traditional handing over ceremony will be held on Tuesday evening at the Sir John Guise Stadium.
PNG has invited both Indonesia and the United Liberation Movement for West Papua to the summit.
Indonesia is now an associate member of the MSG.
The United Liberation Movement for West Papua and Timor-Leste are observers.
O’Neill said his country was looking forward to welcoming MSG leaders at this year’s summit.
“MSG leaders will consider reports and updates since the 2015 Summit and 2016 Special Summit which will first be presented through the meeting of the Foreign Affairs Ministers,” O’Neill said.
“The MSG is an important forum for our region with a number of significant issues on the agenda that matter to our people and communities.
“Papua New Guinea looks forward to welcoming MSG leaders, ministers and delegates again to our country.”
Meanwhile, the senior officials meeting started on Saturday and will continue on Monday.
Officials are meeting ahead of the Leaders’ Summit to finalise issues to go before MSG Leaders for their decision.
MSG Secretariat Director General, Ambassador Amena Yauvoli said the Senior Officials meeting will discuss policies, work programme and budget for the coming two years.
“These policy issues will require the endorsement of Foreign Ministers as well as Leaders. On Sunday senior officials will discuss the 2018 Work Programme and Budget.
“We will be reporting to Leaders on the reform status of the Secretariat as mandated by the Governing Council in December 2016.
“Also a number of reports will be presented to the Leaders.
“These include the report on PNG’s 2017 National Elections, report on Arms Trade Treaty, report on the MSG inshore fisheries and an update on membership guidelines.”
Ambassador Yauvoli said the criteria for Observers and Associate Members and New Membership Guidelines will be tabled directly to the Leaders on Wednesday for their consideration.
“The decision for new membership is solely the prerogative of Leaders and will be discussed on Wednesday.”
The Port Moresby Leaders’ Summit will be the first for Prime Minister Houenipwela, who came to power in November last year.
Vanuatu’s Prime Minister Charlot Salwai and his foreign affairs minister, Ralph Regenvanu will be in Port Moresby for the MSG Leaders’ Summit, while the FLNKS delegation will be led by Victor Tutugoro…
Fijian Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama is not attending, and will be represented by his country’s Defence and National Security Minister, Ratu Inoke Kubuabola.
MSG members are Solomon Islands, Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu, and the FLNKS of New Caledonia.
By LESLEY SANGA