Pacific News Minute: Rift Erupts in Melanesian Spearhead Group

Mar 22, 2018

Deputy Prime Minister of the Solomons Manasseh Sogavare
Credit Presidential Office Building, Taiwan / Flickr

The long running division in the Melanesian Spearhead Group has erupted into public. Senior officials in the Solomon Islands and Fiji have attacked each other over the issue of West Papua. We have details from Neal Conan in today’s Pacific New Minute.

The divide can be described as real-politik versus racial solidarity. In a nod to the political, economic and military clout of Indonesia, the MSG’s two biggest members accept that Jakarta rules the western half of New Guinea as its sovereign territory. The three smallest members protest that Indonesia rules as the colonial master of oppressed Melanesians.

For years, the MSG papered over the rift, but last week, the gloves came off.

Manasseh Sogavare, now deputy Prime Minister of the Solomons, declared that Fiji’s Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama was sabotaging the MSG by putting economics first. Sogavare said that Bainimarama had forced the MSG to accept Indonesia as an observer back in 2011, and should now apologize.  

Fijian Defense Minister Ratu Inoke Kubuabola
Credit Estonian Foreign Ministry / Flickr

In response, Fiji Defense Minister Ratu Inoke Kubuabola pointed out that Sogavare himself had been in the chair in 2015, when the MSG elevated Indonesia to the status of associate membership.

“I think he is either suffering from memory loss or trying to play politics.”

With bitterness and paralysis on public display, an opposition MP in the Solomons told RNZ Pacific that the group should either kick Indonesia out, or dismantle itself. “The MSG,” Mathew Wale said, “has worked itself into a bad joke.”