West Papua is high on the agenda as MSG leaders meet in Port Vila

By Kelvin Anthony, RNZ Pacific Leading digital and social media journalist

The focus of the Pacific region will briefly shift to Port Vila next week as Vanuatu hosts the FLNKS (Kanak and Socialist National Liberation Front) leader of Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and New Caledonia. 22nd Melanesian Spearhead Group Leaders Summit.

During the Pacific Islands Forum Leaders’ Meeting in July last year, a regional sub-committee convened to hand over the role of chair from PNG to Vanuatu.

Next week will be its first full meeting since pre-Covid leaders last gathered in Port Moresby in February 2018.

The theme of this year’s meeting is „MSG, Being Relevant and Influential”. It has been 15 years since Vanuatu last hosted the Leaders’ Summit, the main decision-making body of the MSG.

It is a group established 35 years ago to represent and advance the interests of Melanesia and its people.

Although the agenda for the meeting has not yet been released by the leadership, West Papua’s full membership is an issue on the table.

Inspiration is never too strong
The Leaders’ Summit has for the past decade dealt with the issue of indigenous Papuan calls for the United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP) to become full members of the MSG.

But the pace at which it happens has never been stronger.

In 2018, MSG leaders Approved the application Full membership by ULMWP and forwarded to MSG Secretariat for “processing” under its new membership guidelines.

This week, Vanuatu’s Prime Minister Aladoi Ismail Khalsakau assured RNZ Pacific that Vanuatu would „appeal for MSG’s openness” about the atrocities in West Papua and „hopefully it will be resolved”.

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„It will be a two-day meeting where we can discuss issues of concern within the Melanesian family and come up with resolutions that will help us maintain and sustain our members as a group,” Kalsakau said.

’In the hands of Melanesia’
Fiji Prime Minister Chithiveni Rapuka caused a stir in February when he met ULMWP leader Benny Venda on the sidelines of a special session of the Pacific Islands Forum in Suva.

Rabuka wore the flag of independence morning star-Brandt Bilam became the first Fijian prime minister to meet Venda one-on-one in 16 years and assured his government’s support for the ULMWP’s bid to become a full member of the MSG, subject to „sovereignty issues”. .

„We will support them because they are Melanesians,” he said.

On the other hand, Papua New Guinea wants to continue its relations with MSG associate member Indonesia.

Prime Minister James Marab believes Indonesia’s control over Papua must be respected.

„We don’t want to compromise balance and tempo,” Marabe said.

Decisions taken at MSG Consensus of all leaders. If they disagree on any issue, they should continue to negotiate until they reach a decision.

This means that the FLNKS of Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and New Caledonia must agree to become full members of the ULMWP.

Pacific churches and civil society groups continue Propaganda and Calling MSG leaders should support the initiative of the Free West Papua Movement.

Wenda attended the 7th Melanesian Arts and Culture Festival – MGS’s flagship event – last month to further lobby for support.

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Absent, according to a West Papuan academic „Indonesian Flags or Cultural Symbols” At MACFEST they „talked about the essence and characteristics of Melanesian cultures and values”.

„Melanesians must decide whether we are united enough to support our brothers and sisters in West Papua, or whether our respective cultures are too diverse to resist the allure offered by outsiders to look the other way,” writes Yamin Kokoya. Belongs to the Lani tribe of the Papuan highlands.

Venda, however, is under no illusions that the indigenous Papuans will be accepted into the Melanesian family: „Now the issue lies in the hands of Melanesia.”

  • The leaders’ summit will be held on August 23 and 24, preceded by a meeting of senior officials on Saturday and a meeting of foreign ministers on Monday.

This article is republished under a Community Partnership Agreement with RNZ.

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