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PORT VILA, VANUATU (22 March 2022): Newly-appointed Director General of the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) Secretariat, Leonard Louma, OBE, today paid a courtesy call on the Chairman of the MSG and Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea, Honourable James Marape.

This follows his recent appointment as DG of the MSG Secretariat. DG Louma, while awaiting necessary clearances in Port Moresby, is yet to take up office in Vanuatu and is undertaking a series of courtesy calls on PNG Leaders and briefings with relevant Government Departments and Agencies.
One of the most important and pressing issues discussed this morning was the need for an urgent formal handover of the MSG Chairmanship from PNG to Vanuatu, a position which rotates every two years among members. COVID-19 has, by default, caused this transfer of Chairmanship to be delayed for almost four years.
Prime Minister, Hon. James Marape, has recommended the possibility of travelling to Vanuatu to meet face-to-face with his counterpart, Prime Minister Honourable Bob Loughman, for the handover to take place. A Melanesian cultural ceremony is being contemplated for the Handover. He has asked the PNG Government Officials to liaise with their Vanuatu Government counterparts to work out how this can be done. In addition, Prime Minister Hon. Marape has requested the Director General to have the Secretariat organise a virtual meeting with other MSG leaders during the handover ceremony, to allow them to witness the event.
Following DG Louma’s brief on the dire financial situation of the MSG Secretariat, PM Hon. Marape gave the assurance that PNG will settle all its outstanding contributions as well as pay its 2022 assessed contributions. He stated that this would allow for the new Director General to start on a clean slate with respect to PNG assessed contributions.
Other issues discussed include a possible review of the recruitment process for the Director General and to explore the option of a rotational process among members, while retaining the merit-based system of appointment. PM Hon. Marape was pleased to hear that the Secretariat is already working on a Draft Discussion Paper to circulate to members and the Sub-Committee on Legal and Institutional Issues to consider.
The issue of reported human rights in West Papua and how to address them with Indonesia was also discussed at length at today’s meeting. The emphasis was on nurturing a credible ongoing dialogue with Indonesia on these matters.
Caption: The Director General of the MSG Secretariat, Leonard Louma, OBE, (right) during a courtesy call on the Chairman of the MSG and Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea, Honourable James Marape.

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