By Adam Boland – July 11, 2016 – Pasifik.News
Indonesia has warned Melanesian leaders they risk undermining trade and unity if they get “hijacked” by the “negative propaganda” of the West Papua independence movement.
Leaders will gather in Honiara this week to consider giving the United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP) full membership of the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG).
Solomon Islands Prime Minister
PM Manasseh Sogavare
The move is being strongly backed by Solomons Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare who believes it would force Indonesia to talk more openly about the region’s future.
“Indonesia leaves the MSG no alternatives on bringing the West Papuan issues on the table for discussion, except to elevate the status of West Papua from observer status to full membership, so that the MSG leaders can be able to discuss the West Papuan issues more strategically,” he said in May.
That position is supported by renowned West Papuan religious leader Benny Giay.
“Papuans don’t trust Indonesians and Indonesians don’t trust Papuans. That’s why we need a third party to moderate,” he told Pasifik News.
But Indonesia says elevating the ULMWP would threaten regional stability.
“The ULMWP’s continuing disruptive and destructive practices in the MSG process are dangerous for its unity and integrity,” says Sade Bimantara from Indonesia’s Embassy in Canberra.
In a strongly worded opinion piece, Mr Bimantara insisted the ULMWP doesn’t represent people who actually live in the region.
“It was created to represent the voices of overseas Papuans, who may still have Indonesian citizenship and many who have renounced their citizenship. The Movement does not represent the almost four million residents of Papua and West Papua provinces of Indonesia,” he wrote.
He says Melanesian leaders need to be careful about supporting a group that has a “lone agenda of taking territories away from a sovereign country”.
That message is likely to resonate with Fiji and Papua New Guinea, which have growing ties with Indonesia.
“We respect the integrity and sovereignty of Indonesia under international laws,” said Fiji’s Foreign Minister Ratu Inoke Kubuabola.