The West Papua debate: How will MSG dance?

Two regional conferences are taking place in Melanesia this month. And although they attract different participants, they both share a common denominator; it’s about the people of the Pacific determined to take control of their own destiny. Initial plans were for both the Special Summit of Leaders of the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) and the biennial Congress of the Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) to be held at the same week but at different countries; Vanuatu capital, Port Vila, for the MSG Special Summit and in Noumea, the capital of the French territory of New Caledonia, for the PINA Summit.

In fact, the PINA executives had invited the Director-General of the MSG Secretariat, Peter Forau to be the keynote speaker at their Noumea Congress. But Forau declined saying he was busy organising the special summit. The MSG Special Summit will be Forau’s most important. Because at stake is the credibility of this 25-year old alliance. Leaders of the pro-independence movement, the FLNKS in New Caledonia, and heads of government in Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Fiji and Vanuatu will have to show that they are in full control of their organisation and its destiny.

Letter from Suva understands the instruction issued by the chairman is that only leaders of the full member countries will attend this meeting. While the MSG relies on friendly and wealthier countries like China to fund their existence, Melanesian leaders need to show that they, not the wealthier nations, dictate the operations at the MSG. Already there have been accusations levelled at the MSG that Indonesia (an observer member of MSG) is doing exactly what Australia has been doing to the Pacific Islands Forum—and that is dictating the operations of MSG. A very senior MSG official once told Letter from Suva, that if the MSG is not careful, it will see Indonesia dictating its agenda—because it has the money and the clout to do so.

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