Advocates for giving West Papuans full membership in the Melanesian Spearhead Group are not giving up despite glaring divisions over the matter within the sub-regional grouping.
Advocates for full West Papuan membership in the Melanesian Spearhead Group are not giving up despite glaring divisions over the matter in the sub-regional grouping.
This month in Honiara, MSG leaders deferred a decision on an application for full membership by the United Liberation Movement for West Papua, which currently has observer status.
The Liberation Movement said the deferral did not, as Indonesian officials claim, amount to a rejection.
But as Johnny Blades reports, MSG leaders said the group's secretariat must first develop more clear guidelines for membership.
Vanuatu's prime minister says since last year membership criteria has been developed which stipulates full members needing to be a Melanesian state, tending towards trade relationships. Charlot Salwai says the MSG secretariat has been tasked with coming up with criteria which better reflects the MSG's founding principles, namely to assist the self-determination of Melanesian peoples. He points out that one of the full MSG members, New Caledonia's FLNKS Kanak movement, is not a state but a political movement aspiring for independence. This, Mr Salwai says, sets a precedent for the West Papuans to have full membership. However Papua New Guinea's foreign minister Rimbink Pato says the FLNKS situation is different to the West Papuans.
RIMBINK PATO: FLNKS, they were in there right from the beginning. They have come a long way and they have taken a completely different route in terms of the issues that require their inclusion and consideration for full membership; and their agendas for example of going through the process recognised by international law, the issue of decolonisation.
In recent months, large numbers of West Papuans have been mobilising in Papuan cities to express support for the Liberation Movement, which at times has resulted in mass arrests. An Australia-based Papuan student, Yamin Kogoya, said fellow Papuan students who demonstrated elsewhere in the Indonesian republic now face heavy monitoring by the security forces. He says Indonesian police and civilian militia assaulted those involved in one particular demo by the Papuan Student Alliance in Yogyakarta to time with the Honiara summit.
YAMIN KOGOYA: Basically what happened was that, obviously the Indonesian police and also security forces, they don't like the citizens, they're students, they're not just the Papuans, they're students, but also they're citizens of Indonesia. they are not allowed to express their voice freely democratically
While MSG countries are limited in their influence over Indonesian state actions in Papua, their importance as an international block has grown as the plight of West Papuans has become more internationalised. Charlot Salwai says the MSG must unite to overcome divisions over the issue.
CHARLOT SALWAI: We have to understand and find a way to support our brothers of Melanesia to get what they want. They want self-determination so why are we supporting the FLNKS and not the ULMWP? If we believe in Melanesian culture, we should not turn away, but continue to unite, because the benefits of having the MSG are huge for Melanesian countries.
MSG leaders are expected to further discuss the Liberation Movement's application in Port Vila in September.