Indonesia’s MSG bid on back burner: PM Marape

Leaders at the 22nd Melanesian Spearhead Group Leaders Summit in Vanuatu (Photo: MSG Secretariat/Facebook)

A one-year moratorium has been placed on Indonesia’s application to join the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG).

Prime Minister James Marape said this was so that Pacific Island Forum could address the West Papua issue and specifically human rights allegations in the province.

Marape also said that the MSG received interest from Australia, France and Indonesia to join the group.

He explained that a date has not yet been set, but a group of leaders from the MSG would visit Indonesia to raise the West Papua issue.

“Representatives of all current member countries will make this visit and see for ourselves if the allegations of human rights abuse are true or not,” Marape said.

“We must also understand that every country has its own law and order issues, so we will be visiting Indonesia, to put to rest this issue, before we can start discussing Indonesia’s application to join the MSG.

“The MSG comes under the Pacific Islands Forum.”

Marape also said that the MSG agreed on a one-year moratorium on the applications of other countries who had showed an interest in joining the group, which included, Australia and France.

Meanwhile, The United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP) has responded cautiously over the Melanesian Spearhead Group’s surprise denial of full membership at its leaders summit last week, welcoming the communique while calling for urgent action over Indonesia’s grave human rights violations.

In a statement released by President Benny Wenda after the second ULMWP leaders’ summit in Port Vila, the movement said the MSG had “misinterpreted” its founding principles based on the “inalienable right” of colonised countries for independence.

Strong speeches in support of the West Papuan struggle were made at the ULMWP summit by Vanuatu’s Ralph Regenvanu, the current Climate Minister and a former foreign minister, and Barak Sope, a former prime minister.

Wenda said the ULMWP agreed to the MSG chair asking the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) to ensure that the requested visit of the UN Human Rights Commissioner to Indonesia takes place, and to asking Jakarta to allow the commissioner to visit West Papua and have the report considered at the next MSG summit in 2024.

But he added the hope that the MSG chair would “honour” these commitments urgently, “given the grave human rights violations on the ground in West Papua, including the recent warnings on human rights issues from the UN Special Advisor on Genocide”.

The ULMWP also expressed:

*Scepticism about the impact of the renewed call for a UN visit, given that the visit had been continually denied in spite of the 2019 calls by the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) and the Organisation of African, Caribbean and Pacific States (OACPS);

*Reservation on the possibility of future dialogue with the Indonesia government. Full MSG membership was a precondition;

*Reservation on the discussion of “closer collaboration” with the Indonesian government when the people of West Papua had asked for full MSG membership; and

*Reservation on the statement: “Membership must be limited only to sovereign and independent states, with special arrangements for FLNKS”.

On the FLNKS statement, Wenda said: “This appears to be a misinterpretation of the founding principles of the Melanesian Spearhead Group which state that, ‘having come together, the Melanesian Spearhead Group commit themselves to the principles of, respect for, and promotion of, independence as the inalienable right of colonial countries and people.’”

Meanwhile, as condemnation of the MSG’s position on West Papua has grown since the “disappointing” summit last week, Governor Powes Parkop of Papua New Guinea’s capital Port Moresby, has made renewed criticism.

“I am totally disappointed but I will never give up until my last breath,” he told Asia Pacific Report.

“Our heritage is that we defend our land and our people. For thousands of years we defeated the Melayu people of Indonesia or the various Muslim and Hindu empires which tried to enter our ancestral land.

“They never succeeded. We only were overwhelmed by European superior weapons and abilities in 1800s and subsequently Indonesians took over after arming themselves with these superior weapons left by colonial powers and the Japanese invading army,” said Parkop, who has long been a critic of Papua New Guinea’s failure to take a stronger stance over Indonesia.

“I will honour our heritage and our ancestors by continuing to challenge Indonesian rule over West Papua our ancestral land. We have lost many battles, heroes and heroines, but Indonesia has and will never win the war. “We are fighting for our rights, our dignity and our heritage and nothing Indonesia does will dent that drive and energy,” he said.