PORT MORESBY (PNG Post Courier/ Radio New Zealand International/ Pacific Media Watch): The Papua New Guinea government will push for Indonesia to become an associate member of the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) to encourage greater participation of its West Papuan citizens in cultural, trade and investment opportunities with their Melanesian wantoks.
Prime Minister Peter O’Neill said this during the signing of understanding agreements to fight transnational crime and cooperate in human resource capacity building in the exploration of oil and energy.
Indonesian President Joko Widodo and O’Neill, after their bilateral talks, witnessed the signing of the two agreements between PNG’s Foreign Minister Rimbink Pato and his Indonesian counterpart Retno Marsudi.
"We have agreed on several arrangements including the signing of the two MOUs (Memorandum of Understanding) on transnational crimes and energy agreements which the two countries will further develop those opportunities into the future," O’Neill said.
"We have also agreed for Papua New Guinea’s support for Indonesia to become an associate member of the MSG which PNG will gladly endorse and pursue with the other leaders of the Melanesian group," O’Neill said.
"This will again allow our five Melanesian provinces that Indonesia will come under to allow them to participate in cultural and trade and investment engagement with the Melanesian countries in the region.
O'Neill and Widodo also agreed to strengthen economic activities, with Indonesia investing into the infrastructure "opening up opportunities for Papua New Guinea to do business and further engage with our Melanesians on the other side of the border".
But the Governor of Oro in Papua New Guinea, Gary Juffa, told Radio New Zealand International earlier, that PNG's government was likely to reiterate that the membership bid must be endorsed by Indonesia in order to be successful.
He said he had no confidence that the MSG would act in the interests of the region's people over a West Papuan bid for MSG membership.
"And then what Indonesia will say so that it's not such a hard swallow, is that, hey, West Papua and Papua and this and that and five other regions will also be members. That's what they're going to propose. Then the MSG has just failed in its complete and purpose and agenda and should be disbanded."
Widodo said the two leaders had agreed to increase cooperation in various economic sectors to encourage trade beyond the border markers.
He said they had agreed to also encourage strengthening cooperation in investment and infrastructure development as well as encourage participation of private sectors in energy, telecommunication, forestry and fisheries.
"We have also agreed to increase our connectivity and I am also delighted with the Garuda Indonesia and Air Niugini agreement to code share for the Port Moresby-Denpasar as well as Port Moresby-Singapore-Jakarta," Widodo said.
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