MSG faces major challenges amid lingering fractures
The future appears uncertain for the Melanesian Spearhead Group after its director-general Peter Forau announced his sudden resignation last week.
The future appears uncertain for the Melanesian Spearhead Group after its director-general announced his sudden resignation last week.
During Peter Forau's four years in the job, the MSG saw some significant developments including confronting the West Papua issue and finalising a trade agreement.
But he indicates that there is a lack of commitment of some in the group - whose full members are Papua New Guinea, Fiji, Vanuatu, Solomon Islands and the FLNKS Kanak movement of New Caledonia.
Johnny Blades with this report.
Peter Forau said he had wanted to see out the last two years of his term. But he felt that he no longer had the full support of MSG member states, with the necessary budgetary support for the MSG secretariat not readily available. He said Melanesian countries had yet to decide on what the MSG's core business is, in relation to other regional groupings.
PETER FORAU: "We kept being reminded by our members about issues of duplication and I kept saying to myself that, no we are not duplicating anything. If anything we are trying to address some of the challenges for our members which are not better served by the region because ours are more pronounced than everyone else's because we are bigger and you know a bit more chaotic in terms of how we are responding."
In the past four years, the MSG has focussed on how to address the issue of human rights abuses in West Papua. This co-incided with inclusion in the MSG of Indonesia, which now has associate member status, as well as the granting this year of observer status to the United Liberation Movement for West Papua. Mr Forau admitted that most within the MSG had hoped for a more substantive and stronger position than what was taken in regards to West Papua. However, the United Liberation Movement's Andy Ayamiseba says the director-general has been an effective conduit.
ANDY AYAMISEBA: "I think Peter Forau is one of the top Melanesian public servants that could be regarded. And he has played his role very, very well to mingle between the member countries. He is very good, yes."
PNG's Foreign Minister Rimbink Pato says Mr Forau has done a good job at a challenging time for the region.
RIMBINK PATO: "There are a number of challenges that remain which we the MSG group of countries will address them together, and those issues are also very common to all of us in the region. So he has done his job, but there is a lot that there needs to be done yet."
Among the most pressing issues pre-occupying MSG states is climate change. Fiji is making a major effort to push for climate change mitigation and adaptation, but has channelled most of those efforts through the fledgling regional organisation which its prime minister Frank Bainimarama set up in 2013, the Pacific Islands Development Forum. Meanwhile, Fiji's relations with other MSG governments, such as PNG, remain troubled, according to Peter Forau.
PETER FORAU: "Personally I feel that some of the hangovers from relationship issues that had to do with, for example, the Fiji case, are still being sorted out. I do not think they have been fully sorted out, they are still there."
Peter Forau believed MSG states had enough natural resources to support economic growth that could make a difference to the lives of everyone in the region.That is, he said, if they organised themselves properly.
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