MSG rejects West Papua membership bid

4:48 pm on 29 June 2015, RadioNZNews

The Melanesian Spearhead Group has knocked back West Papua‘s bid to become a full member of the group, while elevating Indonesia’s status.

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Tags: West Papua
Transcript

The Melanesian Spearhead Group has knocked back West Papua‘s bid to become a full member of the group, while elevating Indonesia’s status.

The United Liberation Movement for West Papua hoped to follow in the footsteps of New Caledonia’s FLNKS in obtaining full MSG membership, without being a sovereign government.

This would have been Papua‘s first recognition in an international fora since the region was incorporated into Indonesia.

Koroi Hawkins has more.

“Let us not forget the dreams and wishes of our people to be part of a Melanesian family. The desire of our people for an inclusive MSG. An MSG that is able to stand for what is right in the world, where such values are now struggling to survive.”

It was a passionate speech by Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare at the opening of the MSG Leaders Summit in Honiara on Wednesday.

One that brought tears to the eyes of the members of the United Liberation Movement for West Papua delegation present and sparked hope in West Papuan Leaders such as Benny Wenda.

“I think his speech is the really amazing ever and I think now its time for the Melanesian leaders to show the world that they can handle this problem because this is the longest struggle, 50 years is enough that’s why it is time for Melanesian leaders to look at this issue and bring West Papua into Melanesia.”

And bring them in they did. But not in the way Benny Wenda or anyone else for that matter had envisioned.

The MSG rejected the ULM bid for membership and instead granted them observer status, with an interesting twist, while elevating Indonesia’s own observer status to that of associate member.

A Solomon Islands academic Tarcisius Tara Kabutaulaka, who is an associate professor at the University of Hawaii’s school of Pacific Island Studies, says the latter decision is the most disappointing for Melanesians.

“Not so much for the fact that West Papua has been admitted only as an observer member but for the fact the Indonesia has been made a member of the MSG. I think thats the big dissappointment. On the other hand the fact that West Papua has been accorded an observer status is a good thing its a step in the right direction.”

But a spokesperson from the Indonesian Embassy in Canberra Sade Bimantara says its associate membership is a positive step for Melanesia.

“We believe that we can contribute to the Melanesian Spearhead Group. Add value to that and also to increase connectivity between people in the Asia Pacific with those Melanesian descendants in Indonesia.

For the ULM however there is only gratitude for what Benny Wenda describes simply as recognition.

“You know 53 years we, our voice never recognised and in the regional and international fora so this is why this is the first step for West Papua to become an observer in the Melanesian Spearhead Group.”

But the observer status comes with conditions that say the ULMWP is representing West Papuans outside of West Papua. A clause Dr Kabutaulaka says ignores the representative status already held by the ULM.

“To imply that it only represents people outside West Papua is in a way say that, you know, it is not really a legitimate representation of West Papuans and therefore when it comes to serious discussions it could be disregarded.”

And this was raised by Indonesia delegation in Honiara right off the bat according to Papua based journalist, Victor Mambor who was in Honiara for the summit.

Reading from an Indonesian statement released in response to the United Liberation Movement for West Papua‘s speech in acceptance of its observer status, Victor Mambor said Indonesia rejected the ULM’s allegations of human rights abuses in West Papua as well as the ULM’s claim that it represented the people of West Papua.

“Listening to the statement of the observer calling itself ULMWP, I wonder if their participation in the MSG will contribute to its noble causes and principles. We categorically reject all these unfounded and false allegations made against the government of Indonesia.”

But Benny Wenda says to him the clause is irrelevant given the make up of the ULM and the extent to which the group has gone to make sure it was representative of the people of West Papua.

“They chose us as a leader of speaking out on behalf of people of West Papua. And this is representing people inside and outside which some of them live in exile, so we are representing people of West Papua.”

The full extent of the decisions made by MSG Leaders in Honiara this week are yet to play out in the region but a contrast can be taken in comparing the reactions of the two parties concerned.

First Indonesia.

“Indonesia is populated by about 253 million people. So this is a potential large market access for citizens of MSG. So if we can work together you know to increase our economic ties and development I think we can enhance the prosperity of our peoples.”

And secondly West Papua.

“We United Liberation Movement to pursue another further push to full membership. That is what we will fight for next step.

MSG rejects West Papua membership bid was originally published on PAPUA MERDEKA! News

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