410th anniversary of European arrival; Solomon Islands and Vanuatu agree on MSG

De Queiros' cartographer Don Diego de Prado's map 'The Great Bay of St Philip and St James in Espiritu Santo', published in 1608

De Queiros’ cartographer Don Diego de Prado’s map ‘The Great Bay of St Philip and St James in Espiritu Santo’, published in 1608

De Queiros depicted on a commerative 50-vatu coin

The 410th anniversary of the arrival of the first Europeans is to be celebrated tomorrow, May 14. This commemorates when Pedro Fernandes de Queirós, a Portuguese navigator in the service of King Philip III of Spain, stepped ashore at what is now known as Big Bay, Espiritu Santo. De Queirós, more commonly known by the Spanish version of his name, Pedro Fernández de Quirós, claimed dominion over what he called New Jerusalem, where he intended to settle, claiming he had found the great southern continent La Austrialia de Espiritu Santo, and this because his king Philip III of Spain was also a prince of the House of Austria. On proceeding to the shore, De Quiros’ launch met with a canoe, the men in which trained their drawn bows on De Quiros and his men with the result that De Quiros ordered musket shots fired over the heads of the islanders who then paddled swiftly to shore ending the first encounter between Melanesians and Europeans. It was not a happy meeting, the visitors being considered raiders who were, of course, seeking garden produce and domestic animals, and the local value of a pig was seriously misunderstood. Lives were lost. And by 11 June, De Quiros had sailed away. However, the event is to be marked at Matantas, in the south-eastern corner of Big Bay, tomorrow. The Sanma Provincial Government is sponsoring a National Prayer Assembly and commemorating the landing of De Quiros and the naming Santo the Land of the Holy Spirit. Minister for Internal Affairs Alfred Maoh will deliver addresses at both events and Sanma’s President John Aru will close the occasions. Sanma Province is contributing Vt 1 million to these events.

The Solomon IslandsPM, Manasseh Sogavare, as Chairman of the Melanesian Spearhead Group, has apologised to Prime Minister Charlot Salwai because of the changes of date as regards the MSG Leaders’ Summit, Radio Vanuatu News reported this lunchtime. However, both government heads are said by all media to be in total agreement over the need to grant full membership status to West Papua. Daily Post reported PM Sogavare saying the Melanesian solidarity is exemplified by the 5 Melanesian countries supporting the Solomons’ bid to host the next South Pacific Games. PM Salwai revealed he will be traveling to New Caledonia next week and will discuss Melanesian solidarity there with FLNKS Leader Victor Tutugoro. “I wish to reiterate that we are cousins, brothers and we will work together for our common interests,” he told PM Sogavare, noted by Daily Post.

Solomon Islands’ PM Sogavare has told the press that the MSG senior officials’ meeting and leaders’ meeting were to take place in Port Vila and Port Moresby. However from date changes, PNG PM Peter O’Neill has accepted to host both Melanesian meetings in June. These meetings will go ahead at the same time as the African, Caribbean and Pacific meeting in Port Moresby. The MSG leaders have accepted the new date. PM Salwai says the appointment of the MSG Director-General is a “minor issue” and he, Salwai, and PM Sogavare agree small differences in the MSG must not spoil the solidarity of the grouping as a whole, VBTC News reported today.

The National Convention Centre handover and Prime Minister’s Office de-commissioning are going ahead today, and an important offer of two new sites of public importance has been made. Chief Denny Kalmet Nmak of Erakor has promised sites for both a new cemetery and a new municipal waste dump (to replace Etas). The Prime Minister’s Office has welcomed the suggestion and the general public will agree that both are very necessary.