By Toddy Morris in Port Vila
The 22nd Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) Leaders’ Summit opened yesterday at the National Convention Center in Port Vila, with host Prime Minister Ismail Khalsakau hailing opportunities to „enhance our efforts as a united Melanesia”.
Prime Minister Kalsakao welcomed all delegations and expressed how happy and privileged the people of Vanuatu were to have MSG leaders visit Port Vila after the recent successful Melanesian Arts and Culture Festival.
„It gives me great pleasure to welcome you to Port Vila during the official opening of the 22nd MSG Leaders’ Summit,” he said.
Fifteen years after Vanuatu hosted it in 2008, this gathering of all the leaders of our unique and noble organization must witness history.
“I take this opportunity on behalf of the Government and the people of Vanuatu at the outset to express our sincere appreciation for your commitment and courtesy.
„It is important not only to honor the invitation to attend the Leaders’ Summit and related meetings here in Port Vila, but also for your leadership and wisdom to collectively seize opportunities to revitalize and galvanize our efforts as a united Melanesia.”
Prime Minister Kalzakau said that the development goals, dreams and aspirations of the Melanesian region, which stretches from West Papua in the South West Pacific to Fiji in the East, is not limited to a united Melanesia.
Duty of Protection
As custodians of 90 percent of the land, population and natural resources, Melanesian countries have a duty of care and duty to the rest of Oceania, especially the Pacific Small Island Developing States, he said.
“As Prime Minister, President and Host, I take this opportunity once again on behalf of the Government and people of Vanuatu to reiterate Vanuatu’s privilege to take up the leadership and challenge of the MSG and enhance the functioning of our sub-regional organization. Common agendas and aspirations, for the betterment of the group and our people,” Kalsakao said.
„Many political observers derided our sub-regional efforts at cooperation as divisive and destructive to regional cooperation.
„In earlier years, foreign skeptics with zero understanding of Melanesia and its core referred to us as 'the precarious curve.’ They advanced this agenda for our failure as nation-states.
“Today I am proud to say that we have proved these critics wrong on more than one count. The heritage given to us by our Creator, Almighty God, has proved that we collectively build on the foundations that bind us as a people.
Kalsakau said the MSG today is more vibrant and viable than ever, as countries move forward in a joint effort of common social, political, economic and security interests, underscoring Melanesia’s determination, resilience and resilience.
„MSG, Being Relevant and Influential” as the theme of the 22nd MSG Leaders’ Summit is a fitting and timely reminder, he said.
’Overcoming the colonial past’
„For independent states, we have overcome the colonial past and now collectively transform the 'Arc’ into one of responsibility and prosperity. This vital Arc of Melanesia moves forward,” said the Prime Minister.
“We are reminded that there are those among our people who continue to be lost, unable to take their rightful place in the global union of nations. Therefore, the MSG platform offers unique opportunities in affirming expressions of faith for the whole of Melanesia.
Prime Minister Kalsakao said MSG was the largest group in the Pacific Islands Forum family. The MSG should continue to assume a leadership role and drive forward initiatives, the name suggests.
He said the MSG was the only subregional group with a permanent secretariat and perhaps the only active and functional free trade agreement in Oceania.
„This is a remarkable achievement, as we commemorate MSG’s 35 years as a great organization, an achievement we should all be proud of,” Kalsakao said.
„Our sub-regionalism is no longer frowned upon, but seen as a building block for stronger regional cooperation within the wider regional architecture, as we provide additional cooperation impetus to the blue Pacific continent, of which we are an integral part.”
Thus MSG sub-regionalism is proven and will continue to grow in importance and relevance.
„As the leader, I want to emphasize that as a group, we must not forget the fundamental principles espoused by the MSG,” Kalsakao said. This includes:
- Promoting sub-regional diplomacy and friendly relations,
- Maintaining peace and harmony,
- Promoting free and open trade, promoting economic and technological cooperation, and
- Promoting our unique Melanesian traditions and cultures.
However, Prime Minister Kalsakao wants the secretariat to help members close several pending issues agreed upon by leaders during his tenure as chairman.
Under the guidance of a high-performing Director General, he expects a robust Secretariat to implement the key recommendations of the Implementation Strategy for Prosperity for All 2038.
„The third-amended MSG Free Trade Agreement 2017 should be brought into force soon so that we can all benefit from its provisions on trade in services and investments,” he said.
“On that note, I want to assure you of my government’s commitment to sign and ratify the MFTA by November this year. Skills mobilization scheme should be widely promoted so that our people can take full advantage of it.
Through delegations, the Prime Minister announced that the governments of Australia and China will also participate as special guests at the Leaders’ Summit.
He commended the Secretariat for facilitating and revitalizing the first edition of the MSG PM’s Cup last year.
Daddy Morris Vanuatu Daily Post Correspondent. Republished with permission.
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