PRIME Minister Manasseh Sogavare has described his meetings with his Fijian counterpart Frank Baenimarama and Foreign Affairs minister Ratu Inoke Kabuabola in Suva, Fiji, as ‘very successful.’
Prime Minister Sogavare is visiting Suva in his capacity as the Chair of the Melanesian Spearhead Group to discuss with his Fiji counterpart issues facing the MSG including the poor financial position of the MSG Secretariat and West Papua.
He used the opportunity to also handover a FJ$1.277-Million cheque from the Solomon Islands Government to Prime Minister Baenimarama towards the Fiji Government’s immediate relief assistance for people affected by Cyclone Winston and discuss bilateral issues between Solomon Islands and Fiji.
Speaking at a press conference at the Grand Pacific Hotel in Suva, Thursday, the MSG Chair said:
“I had very fruitful discussions with my Fiji counterpart, Prime Minister Frank Baenimarama and the Foreign Affairs Minister Ratu Kabuabola.
“In our meetings we jointly expressed concern about the poor financial situation of the MSG Secretariat.
“As you know the MSG Secretariat was established to implement decisions made by MSG leaders but unfortunately it is in a critical financial situation as a result of the non payment of contributions by the FLNKS.
“We discussed a longer-term solution to that problem, acknowledging the fact that the FLNKS is not a government but just a political grouping within the Congress of New Caledonia and therefore it is not in a position to influence the budget.
“So we agreed that we might look at another formula to pick up the contribution and obligations of the FLNKS as you know New Caledonia is a very important member of the MSG.
“The very reason why the MSG was formed was to look at the decolonization of New Caledonia and other Melanesian states as well.
“So it is a very important matter and we understand its situation and look at a longer- term solution.”
Mr Sogavare said they also discussed the need of reviewing the MSG Secretariat structure and its work plans and the MSG leaders’ special summit proposed for April this year will see the finalization of the ideas he flagged with MSG leaders’ during his MSG Capitals’ tour on the way forward.
He said another important agenda they touched on is the issue of West Papua.
“We all agree that at this point in time, West Papua is an integral part of Indonesia and therefore need to work within the framework of the United Nations to address the concerns of the people of West Papua.
“Of course, the issue of self-determination is a matter for the people of West Papua and the Indonesian government to discuss but when it comes to human rights violations, it is something that we as members of the United Nations have a duty to express our views and concerns and we hope that the government of Indonesia will respect that for the good of all.”
The MSG Chair said they also agreed to encourage the Chair of the Pacific Islands Forum to pursue with the Indonesian government to the decision by the Pacific Islands Forum leaders in Port Moresby last year for the deployment of a fact-finding mission to Indonesia to follow up on the allegations of human rights violations.
He said he has expressed to the PIF Chair that it is in the interest of the MSG that the integrity of the outcome of the fact-finding mission is protected and the protection of its integrity would require the exclusion of politicians and government representatives to avoid any political influence.
The MSG Chair said in his meetings with the Fiji Prime Minister and Foreign Affairs Minister, they also agreed that it is good for Indonesia that the fact-finding mission be discussed openly and that Indonesia gives it access to to carry out its mandate.
Commenting on the FJ$$1.27-Million cheque towards Fiji’s immediate cyclone relief efforts, the MSG Chair said the money is a donation from the Solomon Islands Government.
He said he told his counterpart, Prime Minister Baenimarama that MSG countries stand by Fiji in its time of need and other MSG governments will be coming forth with their donations soon.
The MSG Chair said the MSG states including Solomon Islands will be guided by the Fiji Government on where to target their assistance.
He added that if need be, MSG countries are willing to ship in carpenters and people with other skills to Fiji to help in its reconstruction phase.