POST COURIER – The Papua New Guinea Government will push for Indonesia to become an associate member of the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) to encourage greater participation of its 11 million West Papuans in cultural, trade and investment opportunities with their Melanesian wantoks.
Prime Minister Peter O’Neill said this Tuesday during the signing of an understanding to fight transnational crime and cooperate in human resource capacity building in the exploration of oil and energy.
Indonesian President JokoWidodo and O’Neill after their bilateral talks, witnessed the signing of the two MOUs between PNG’s Foreign Minister RimbinkPato and his Indonesian counterpart Retno Marsudi.
“We have agreed on several arrangements including the signing of the two MOUs on transnational crimes and energy agreements which the two countries will further develop those opportunities into the future,” O’Neill said.
“We have also agreed for Papua New Guinea’s support for Indonesia to become an associate member of the MSG which PNG will gladly endorse and pursue with the other leaders of the Melanesian Group,” O’Neill said.
“This will again allow our five Melanesian provinces that Indonesia will come under to allow them to participate in cultural and trade and investment engagement with the Melanesian countries in the region.
“This will also enable Melanesian people to participate in sporting events and other activities of cultural significance which will further strengthen our own relationship together with our Melanesian 11 or so million people on the Indonesian side of our border.
“We further agreed to strengthen economic activities especially along the border region and Indonesia is again heavily investing in the infrastructure in those provinces, of which we would like to have access to particularly in telecommunication, power generation and of course the road infrastructure that is being built there opening up opportunities for Papua New Guinea to do business and further engage with our Melanesians on the other side of the border.”
“I again salute the President for his courage in ensuring that we take a step forward in the relationship on how we engage with the Melanesians in the Indonesian provinces.
“This is truly a unique understanding that has been reached between the two Governments,” said O’Neill.
Prime Minister O’Neill said there will be a further enhancement of cross-border trade that ranges from grassroots commerce and SME exchange, through to major utilities trade.
“We agreed to strengthen economic opportunities along the border region where Indonesia is investing in infrastructure that we would like to have access,” said PM O’Neill.
President Widodo said the two leaders have agreed to increase cooperation in various economic sectors to encourage trade beyond the border markers.
He said they agreed to also encourage strengthening cooperation in investment and infrastructure development as well as encourage participation of private sectors in energy, telecommunication, forestry and fisheries.
“We have also agreed to increase our connectivity and I am also delighted with the Garuda Indonesia and Air Niugini agreement to code share for the Port Moresby-Denpasar as well as Port Moresby-Singapore-Jakarta,” Widodo said.
The head of state also pointed out that he considered Papua New Guinea a close neighbor and friend and that the two countries could carry out more intensive cooperation.
“O’Neill and I wish to use the commemoration of the 40th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the two countries as an opportunity to intensify and deepen the relations,” he emphasized.
Meanwhile, President JokoWidodo has called for stronger economic ties between PNG and his country but was silent on the West Papua issue.
Business executives, community and senior officials of both the PNG and Indonesian governments gathered at the Royal Papua Yacht Club in Port Moresby for a business breakfast with president Widodo.
Widodo assured the business community that there were a lot of opportunities both countries could explore and expand on to strengthen economic ties.
“Economic cooperation is a two way thing. Both countries are rich in natural resources, rich in tropical forest, rich in energy resources, we produce a variety of commodities,” he said.
“But we have to manage it in a careful way to the benefit of the people. I repeat for the benefit of the people,”Widodo said.
President Widodo on the other hand said that Indonesia and PNG cannot afford to have a weak economic relationship, pleading that both must ensure that the economic cooperation is a two way street.
“We must be supported by an active business sector…both our countries are rich in natural resources…rich in tropical forest, energy resources…plenty of commodities but we have to manage it in very careful way for the benefit of our people,” he said.
“Indonesia and PNG must make and maintain a stronger economic tie” he said.
He invited the PNG business community to take part in the trade expo which would be held later in the year in Indonesia which was home to more than 250 million people, making it the biggest country in South East Asia.