After a lengthy process, the Melanesian Spearhead Group(MSG) Secretariat has a new Director-General, Leonard Louma from Papua New Guinea.

This follows an announcement by the Chairman of the MSG and Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea, James Marape in an official statement issued on 01 February 2022 in Port Moresby. The MSG Secretariat was without a Director-General since the departure of former Director-General, Ambassador Amena Yauvoli of Fiji who served the Secretariat from 2016 – 2020.

The official statement of appointment was delivered on behalf of the four MSG Leaders including, Fijian Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama, Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare, Vanuatu Prime Minister, Bob Lougman Weibur and Victor Tutugoro Spokesperson of the FLNKS.

Prime Minister Marape said the appointment of Leonard Louma was a result of a lengthy and rigorous merit-based process of appointing a new Director-General.

He reiterated the process of recruitment of the new Director-General was done in accordance to the agreed policy process of recruiting a new Director-General which was adopted at the 20th Leaders’ Summit in Honiara, Solomon Islands on 26 June 2015. The process is based on a merit-recruitment system that allows for the best candidate to be appointed.

MSG Secretariat Director General, Leonard Louma from Papua New Guinea.

In compliance with the agreed stipulated policy, a Recruitment Committee troika comprising PNG, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu did a thorough screening of applicants, shortlisting and interviewing of the shortlisted candidates. From its assessment, the troika concluded and recommended in their report the appointment of Leonard Louma as first choice. In the event that he declines, the offer can be given to the alternative next best preferred candidate. The recommendation as contained in the troika report was considered by the MSG Senior Officials Meeting (SOM) and duly endorsed out-of-session by the MSG Foreign Ministers Meeting (FMM).

The MSG Chair also requested his MSG Colleague Leaders to consider and approve out-of-session the appointment of the new Director-General in December 2021. And having received no objection from his colleague MSG Leaders when the due date for consideration had lapsed, he proceeded with the necessary preparations to make the formal announcement of the appointment.

Prime Minister Marape in his statement stated that he was satisfied and confident that due process had been complied with and that his announcement of the appointment of the new Director-General is in order and in the best interest of the MSG Group.

While he conveyed his appreciation to his colleagues, the MSG Leaders, for their continuous support and confidence rendered to him as the MSG Chair, he reiterated that the MSG Secretariat has been without a substantive Director-General for one year and 10 months and has been the longest since the establishment of the Secretariat. Therefore, the appointment of the Director-General was a necessity and a matter of urgency for the Group.

Prime Minister James Marape on behalf of the MSG Leaders, in congratulating the newly appointed Director-General, Leonard Louma stated that he has confidence in him to continue to lift the visions, spirit and solidarity of the MSG and moreover to lead the MSG Secretariat into new heights.

Leonard Louma who hails from Milne Bay Province in Papua New Guinea is a former seasoned diplomat and a senior public servant with more than 30 years of senior management experience in both the government and private sector. Louma has served in the Papua New Guinea Permanent Mission to the United Nations in New York (USA) and the Papua New Guinea Embassies in Paris (France) and Beijing (China). He was responsible for opening the PNG Embassy in Paris as Charge D’Affaires and was Papua New Guinea’s roving Ambassador to APEC, ASEAN, ESCAP and concurrently PNG High Commissioner to Singapore.

Additionally, nationally he had served as head of several departments within the Papua New Guinea Department of Foreign Affairs and the Office of the Prime Minister. In the latter, he served as Special Advisor on International Relations, Foreign Policy and Foreign Affairs matters to the Prime Minister and subsequently as Chief of Staff to the late Prime Minister Grand Chief Sir Michael Somare from 2005 – 2011.

Regionally, he has been involved in the development and implementation of many regional initiatives such as the original Pacific Plan and its successor in the Framework for Pacific Regionalism, MSG’s 2038 Prosperity for all Plan as a member of an Eminent Person, The MSG Trade Agreement, Re-enlistment of New Caledonia on the UN list of Non-Self Governing Territories, the development and negotiation of the binding tariffs for PNG’s WTO membership bid, and the development of the Pacific Island Forum’s Boe Declaration.

Prior to his appointment, Louma continues to be engaged privately as a free-lance consultant providing strategic advisory services to the Papua New Guinea Government including strategic business advisories to several private organisations and businesses in Papua New Guinea.

Louma has officially accepted the appointment and preparations are now underway to enable him take up his posting in the MSG Secretariat headquarters in Port Vila, Vanuatu.