By Gary Hatigeva
FORMER Chairman of the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG), Manasseh Sogavare has defended his strong stance on the decisions he made when he was chair, on the issue of West Papua.
The former Prime Minister expressed this during a Question and Answer (Q&A) session of Parliament on Monday regarding highlighted issues within MSG that were said to have caused sour relations amongst Forum members.
The Member of Parliament for Aoke/Langalanga, Matthew Wale during the Q&A session put to notice, Prime Minister Rick Hou’s apology statement made at the recent MSG summit in Papua New Guinea last month.
Prime Minister Hou at the summit apologised for what he described as ‘sour relationships’ Solomon’s Chairmanship over the last two years may have caused.
In his response to the questions raised, Prime Minister Hou revealed and highlighted six issues, which he said were some of the major reasons for saying sorry to member countries, most of which seemed to have blamed the former PM’s tenure in office as Chair of MSG.
But in his remarks, Sogavare said his government’s position then on the issue of West Papua was made in consistency with its position on the issues of independence referendum for New Caledonia.
Sogavare said his decisions then were also made within the bounds of the MSG Charter and that he sees nothing wrong with how things were handled.
He said decisions made on the application of the West Papuans were also in consistency with guidelines and procedures in which the application of the FLNKS of New Caledonia was handled.
“The ongoing debate on the admission of ULMWP West Papua into MSG is just consistent with the decisions of the leaders when they admitted FLNKS into the forum as a political entity representing the interests of the indigenous Melanesian people of West Papua.
“We follow strictly the procedure when we admitted West Papua as an observer and it must start there,” Sogavare explained.
He added that leaders though came to agree with the given status to the West Papuans, the influence pressed on MSG by Indonesia continues to prevail because leaders don’t really see eye to eye on it.
The now Deputy Prime Minister explained that his government’s position on the issue of West Papua then, took into account the facts that the people of West Papua are Melanesian yet have continued to be less represented at the MSG level.
The Q&A session had also attracted contributions from the leaders of the Opposition and Independent groups most of whom raised supplementary questions and expressed disagreements over the apology statement.
Many including the Deputy Prime Minister, the leaders of groups from the other side of the house also questioned the future and integrity of MSG as a body that was initially established to fight for the interests of Melanesians.
Looking back at the history of this organisation, it was established purely as a political body to free Melanesia from the hands of colonisation.
He said it was the MSG who fought for New Caledonia and has successfully put them on a path that the UN has approved and this year they will have a referendum.
Meanwhile, in his concluding remarks, the Aoke/Langalanga MP also supported Sogavare’s statement and shared similar sentiments on the issue of West Papua and how MSG has been dealing with their plight.
Wale described MSG at its current status as a bad joke, which continue to serve the interests of certain members, having shifted away from its sole purpose of existence.
Wale, in a strong toned statement called on Parliament to remain standing beside their Melanesian West Papuan brothers and sisters.
Over the last two years, prior to his ousting as head of government, Manasseh Sogavare under his capacity as Prime Minister then was also Chair of MSG and during his term saw the admission of United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP) as associate member in the Forum.
ULMWP is a political entity mandated by the people of West Papua to represent their interests in political avenues and diplomatic levels.