PORT VILA, VANUATU (20 January 2023): The Director General of the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) Secretariat, Leonard Louma, OBE, this week met with the chairman of the United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP), Benny Wenda, and his retinue.

The request by ULMWP for the meeting was made through Vanuatu’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Mr Wenda conversed on two keys matters, firstly providing updates on the situation in West Papua, as they saw it, and secondly, sought information on the ULMWP application for full Membership to the MSG.

DG Louma opened his remarks by informing Mr. Wenda of the importance he placed on constructive dialogue between the two parties. Following that, he sought to explain the basic ground rules governing the operations of the Secretariat given that it is owned by five MSG members.

“The MSG Secretariat’s conduct and actions on any matter are defined and circumscribed by the MSG Leaders decisions. The Secretariat has no authority to act outside the collective decisions of the Leaders. As such, the Secretariat is not at liberty to prosecute the position of individual members on any matter,” DG Louma said.

In terms of the update on the situation in West Papua, DG Louma noted the information provided and pointed out that MSG Leaders have in the past expressed certain views on certain issues raised within the realm of reports of human rights abuses. MSG Leaders, as part of the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF), have taken a decision with their Forum colleagues on an approach that involves the United Nations and the MSG Secretariat is duty-bound to respect that approach.

In relation to the ULMWP membership application, DG Louma emphasised that the MSG Secretariat simply facilitates and implements ‘collective decisions’ made by leaders according to the approved regulations, rules and guidelines.

“As the Head of the MSG Secretariat, I must ensure that the actions I take are in accordance with the decision of the Leaders and the rules approved by them. Consequently, the application by the ULMWP will be considered against the criteria that was approved by the MSG Leaders,” DG Louma added.

The DG also underscored that the powers to make a decision on Membership matters in the MSG, rests with the MSG Leaders which is their exclusive preserve.

Caption: ULMWP Chairman Benny Wenda (middle) and DG Louma (2nd from right) following the meeting this week.

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