Prime Minister Hon Manasseh Sogavare had a successful dialogue with his Vanuatu counterpart, Prime Minister Charlot Salwai in Port Vila this morning.
During their meeting, Prime Minister Sogavare expressed appreciation on behalf of the government and people of Solomon Islands to the Government and people of Vanuatu for backing Solomon Islands bid to host the 2023 Pacific Games.
He said with the support of Vanuatu, the other two MSG Member countries, Partners to the Nauru Agreement (PNA) from the Micronesian region and a few Polynesian countries, Solomon Islands successfully secured the hosting right for the regional games in 2023.
Prime Minister Sogavare said the success of the bid must be attributed to Melanesian solidarity and the acknowledgement of this solidarity by other Pacific non- MSG member countries.
He also expressed apology to the Vanuatu Prime Minister for the change of dates for the Melanesian Spearhead Group Leaders’ Summit.
Prime Minister Sogavare said the changes were due to the recent political instability situation in Solomon Islands.
Prime Minister Sogavare added that according to initial plans, the MSG Senior Officials Meeting and the Leaders’ Summit were to be held in Port Vila and Port Moresby respectively.
However, he said because the initial dates for the Senior Officials meeting were also inconvenient for Prime Minister Salwai, their Papua New Guinea counterpart Prime Minister Peter O’Neil accepted to host both meetings in Port Moresby this June.
The meetings will now run back-to-back with the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) groups’ meeting in the Papua New Guinea Capital.
Prime Minister Sogavare said all the other MSG leaders have accepted the new dates, which effectively means the postponement of the proposed MSG Leaders-donors roundtable discussion to a new date yet to be decided.
The roundtable meeting was proposed to follow on from the Leaders’ summit to chart a way forward for the MSG Secretariat from its poor financial situation.
Prime Minister Hon Sogavare also took the opportunity to acknowledge the intention by the Vanuatu Prime Minister to move a motion at the upcoming MSG Leaders’ Summit for the elevation of the United Liberation Movement of West Papua’s (ULMWP’s) membership of the MSG from Observer status to Full Membership status.
“Your decision for the motion touches my heart and has my full support. I hope that our other colleagues will throw in their support behind this important agenda,” he said.
Prime Minister Sogavare also touched on the issue of his appointment of Ambassador Amena Yauvoli of Fiji as Director General of the MSG Secretariat.
He said he has now decided to allow the formal process of the appointment to take its course, adding that he will not allow little differences amongst MSG Leaders on this issue to break the MSG.
In response, Prime Minister Salwai thanked his Solomon Islands counterpart for calling on him.
He congratulated Solomon Islands for its successful bid to host the 2023 Pacific Games and emphasised that Vanuatu and Solomon Islands are brothers and their relationship will continue to flourish at both the regional and international level.
“Vanuatu will continue to work with you as the Chair of MSG and the Prime Minister of Solomon Islands in the best interest of our two nations and the entire Melanesian region.”
Prime Minister Salwai acknowledged the financial and logistical support the Solomon Islands Government provided for Vanuatu following Cyclone Pam in 2015 and also the logistical support it provided for Vanuatu during its recent snap election.
He said this again is a clear manifestation of the Melanesian values and Vanuatu will continue to defend the Melanesian values and interest of the MSG in its decision-making.
“The MSG is our baby and we will continue to defend it. We have a lot in common to pursue together as Melanesian brothers. MSG represents that largest population, landmass and resources in the region and moreover, we have values that we must continue to embrace.”
Prime Minister Salwai also acknowledged the Solomon Islands Government position on the issue of West Papua and the assurance of support by Prime Minister Sogavare for his proposed motion for the elevation of the ULMWP’s membership of the MSG.
He said he would be meeting with the FLNKS spokesman, Mr Victor Tutugoro when he travels to Noumea next week about the motion to in an effort to also secure his support.
On the issue of the appointment of Ambassador Yauvoli as Director General of the MSG Secretariat, Prime Minister Salwai said it is a minor issue and as rightly stated by Prime Minister Sogavare as Melanesians they should not allow their little differences on it to show and be capitalized on by others to undermine the solidarity of MSG.
“My Government respects the decision you have taken in your capacity as the MSG Chair to appoint Ambassador Yauvoli as Director General of the MSG Secretariat.
“It was only the process of his appointment that concerned the Vanuatu Government after the matter was brought to the spotlight by the Vanuatu Opposition,” Prime Minister Salwai said.
He said now that Prime Minister Sogavare has decided to allow the appointment process to take its course, the Vanuatu Government also respects that decision.
Meanwhile Prime Minister Sogavare and his delegation to the 2023 Pacific Games Bid Presentation in Port Vila will depart tomorrow for Brisbane en route to Honiara.