Sunday, June 21, 2015

1) West Papuans hope unity will guarantee MSG membership

2) West Papua plans final push for MSG membership


1) West Papuans hope unity will guarantee MSG membership

Vanuatu sends its deputy pm for MSG summit

By Nic Maclellan in Honiara Sun 21 Jun 2015

Indonesian officials are lobbying for an upgrade to associate membership of the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG), while a renewed membership application by a united West Papuan coalition will be discussed at this week’s MSG leaders’ summit in Solomon Islands.
Papua New Guinea and Fiji have expressed their opposition to the bid for full MSG membership by the United Liberation Movement of West Papua (ULMWP), a coalition of groups opposed to Indonesian rule in the western half of the island of New Guinea. In contrast, MSG members Vanuatu and New Caledonia’s FLNKS independence movement have expressed solidarity with the West Papuan nationalist movement and their membership application.
Summit host Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare, who takes over as MSG chair for the next two years, must forge a consensus between these divergent positions. Despite these differences, the MSG’s new engagement on the West Papua issue contrasts with the silence of the regional Pacific Islands Forum – there has been no mention of West Papua in Forum communiques since 2006.
Membership bid
In March 2013, the Port Vila-based West Papua National Council for Liberation (WPNCL) lodged a formal membership application to join the MSG. The application was deferred at the last MSG summit, held in Noumea in 2013, to allow a Foreign Ministers mission to visit Indonesia. A special MSG leaders’ summit in Port Moresby in June 2014 again deferred the WPNCL application and agreed “to invite all groups to form an inclusive and united umbrella group in consultation with Indonesia to work on submitting a fresh application.”
West Papuan representatives are in Honiara this week, lobbying MSG officials and leaders and stressing that they have responded to the call for unity expressed in 2014.
The Vanuatu government hosted a December 2014 meeting to bring together Jayapura-based activists and exiled campaigners, forming a united front between competing groups. The newly created United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP) unites different strands of the West Papuan nationalist movement: the West Papua National Council for Liberation (WPNCL), Federal Republic of West Papua (FRWP) and the National Parliament of West Papua (NPWP), which incorporates the National Committee for West Papua (KPNB).
Today, the ULM secretariat includes Secretary General Octo Mote, spokesperson Benny Wenda and executive officers Rex Rumakiek, Jacob Rumbiak and Leonie Tanggahma. These exiled ULM executive members have been joined in Honiara by a range of leaders from inside West Papua, including Edison Maromi of the Federal Republic of West Papua and Dominikus Surabut, the chair of Lapago region of the Papuan Customary Council (Dewan Adat Papua).
ULM Executive officer Jacob Rumbiak stressed that while some leaders were living in exile, the movement’s decision making was taking place amongst political parties and civic movements inside West Papua.
Speaking through a translator, Dominikus Surabut agreed that there was unprecedented co-ordination amongst different strands of the West Papua nationalist movement.
“Our experience over the last 53 years is that there’s been a history of disunity in the struggle, with competing claims for leadership,” said Surabut. “So this opportunity that has been created through the creation of the United Liberation Movement, is really an excellent solution for the people of West Papua.” 
Edison Waromi told Islands Business that MSG governments had forced groups in the independence movement to better co-ordinate their efforts.
“The birth of the ULMWP is actually a direct result of the challenge put forward by the MSG leaders,” said Waromi. “After the previous application in 2013 and 2014, the MSG leaders said it wasn’t fully representative. They challenged us to resubmit another application from a more unified group. So the ULMWP was formed in response to this challenge and through great effort, we feel that we have successfully responded to this challenge. Indonesia is scared of us, now that we’re united.”
Waromi is quick to deny that there are competing applications for membership from different parts of the movement: “I want to state clearly that the Federal Republic of West Papua gives their full and unequivocal support to the United Liberation Movement and its application for MSG membership.”
Maintaining Vanuatu’s support
Vanuatu has long supported the West Papuan nationalist movement with practical and diplomatic aid. Port Vila hosts an office for the WPNCL, which has lobbied for MSG membership in line with the precedent set by the Kanak independence movement (the FLNKS, rather than the Government of New Caledonia, represents New Caledonia in the MSG).
However the recent no-confidence motion that saw the defeat of Prime Minister Joe Natuman’s government raised concern that Vanuatu’s long-standing commitment on West Papua might be affected.
Over the weekend, ULM Secretary General Octo Mote travelled from Honiara to Port Vila, to lock in support from the new government led by Prime Minister Sato Kilman and Deputy Prime Minister Moana Carcasses Kalosil (who arrived in Honiara on Sunday).
“From my trip, I must say that Vanuatu’s support is still there,” Mote told Islands Business from Port Vila. “Nothing has changed on West Papua. There are differences in approach between the old government and new, but it’s not political parties that support us, it’s the nation, the Vanuatu people.”
Mote re-iterated that his delegation was still seeking full MSG membership, but acknowledged recent statements by the Solomon Islands government, calling on MSG leaders to consider observer status rather that full membership.
“Of course we are still pressing for full membership, but if the MSG leaders offer observer status, I’ll take it,” said Mote. “West Papua is now a Melanesian issue. Some people at home who are hoping for full MSG membership will be upset, but it’s important we sit down equally with the Indonesians. If Indonesia are MSG observers, and we are observers, why not?” 
Mote added: “For myself, it’s important for us to sit down equally with the Indonesians, to talk together. If the Kanaks can sit down to create the Noumea Accord with the French, why can’t we create a similar agreement?”
Indonesian concessions
Despite this call for dialogue, West Papuan leaders in Honiara are critical of recent initiatives by Indonesian President Joko Widodo, who visited West Papua in May 2015. Since his election, Jokowi has promised new dialogue on West Papua, and granted concessions such as the release of five political prisoners and an announcement that international media would have free access to West Papua. 
At a press conference in Merauke last month, Jokowi stated: “Starting from today, foreign journalists are allowed and free to come to Papua, just as they can [visit] other regions.” 
This pledge was immediately undercut by his Minister for Political, Legal and Security affairs Tedjo Edhy Purdijatno, who confirmed that foreign journalists would still be screened and must obtain permission from the security forces s to travel to the highlands: “We’ll allow it, on condition that they report on what they see, not go around looking for facts that aren’t true from armed groups…There’s a lot of news out there that makes it look like [human rights] violations are taking place here all the time, but I don’t think that’s the case.” 
For ULM representatives lobbying in Honiara, these concessions do not address the core issues, and are simply designed to blunt this momentum of the West Papuan nationalist movement.
According to ULM Executive officer Rex Rumakiek, “while we would welcome greater media access to report what is really going on, the real question is to allow freedom of expression for the people of West Papua. The prisoners who have been released are not criminals, but acted politically to support human rights.”
Despite Jokowi’s call for dialogue, Indonesian security forces have continued to crack down on dissent. Rumakiek noted: “In the last month, nearly 500 people have been arrested demonstrating in support of the MSG membership application.” 
Customary chief Dominikus Surabut told Islands Business that now was the time for action by Pacific leaders: “If the leaders of the Melanesian countries really want to save us as fellow Melanesians of the same race, as fellow kin, then we ask them to receive us as members of the same family. Those of us who are leaders of the struggle, feel that in order to resolve the conflict in West Papua, then we have to become a member of MSG.”

2) West Papua plans final push for MSG membership
Updated at 6:47 am today
The United Liberation Movement for West Papua is planning its final push ahead of this week’s vote on whether to admit West Papua into the Melanesian Spearhead Group.

The MSG leaders' summit will be held in Solomon Islands this week, where a decision will be made on whether to accept West Papua as a member.
West Papua's bid was rejected for lack of a unified movement at last year's summit, which led to the formation of the United Liberation Movement and the submission of another application.
The group's spokesperson, Benny Wenda, says he is confident the group will be admitted this time round, and will spend this week lobbying the MSG countries.
"At the moment we've already had a meeting here and some of the ministers are coming next week, so we hope that this is very historic and we're trying to use many channels to try and convince that West Papua is Melanesia." 
Benny Wenda says while West Papua is seeking full membership, it will accept observer or associate status.

3) West Papua: Not a bad start for Sogavare

WE all want our government to support the United Liberation Movement for West Papua’s (ULMWP) bid for membership of the Melanesia Spearhead Group (MSG).
Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare last Thursday responded to that call.

The Government, he says, will vote to bring West Papua into the MSG fold on “observer status”.

The highly anticipated announcement was received with mixed reactions.

Some say the position is “too soft”.

Others say it is ambiguous.

While others say it’s confusing.

Expectation is the government must support West Papua’s full member into the MSG family.

We are sure Prime Minister Sogavare made the decision to welcome West Papua into the MSG fold on observer status based on advice received from his army of advisers.

At the moment, East Timor and Indonesia enjoy observer status at MSG.

Indonesia has since applied for associate membership status – an application that will also be decided by MSG leaders in Honiara next Wednesday.

West Papua’s application will also be decided at the same meeting.

The government’s decision to support West Papua attaining observer status on MSG may not go down well with many of us.

But it’s a breakthrough for the United Liberation Movement for West Papua and local West Papuan supporters who’ve campaign and lobbied hard for this cause.

The worst we could get from the government is an outright rejection of West Papua’s application.

By giving them observer status, we have finally invited West Papua into the room to access and listen to discussions and deliberations.

And who know, this may be just a start. In a year or two, they may get full membership status.

Remember the political leaders who make these decisions now will not be up there forever.

Some, if not all, may be gone in a year or two.

But the West Papua issue will remain. It’s an issue we all must continue to push to the front burner for public debate and discourse.

So it’s not a bad start for Prime Minister Sogavare and the DCC government.

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