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Conflicting views on West Papua bid to join MSG
The Melanesian Spearhead Group is an organisational challenge at the best of times and at this month's gathering in New Caledonia, the thorny issue of West Papua was front and centre.


The four member nations did attempt a show of unity but it did not disguise conflicting views on West Papua's bid to join the MSG.

Pacific correspondent Sean Dorney was at the meeting of Melanesian leaders in New Caledonia and filed this report.
Transcript
JIM MIDDLETON, PRESENTER: The Melanesian Spearhead Group is an organisational challenge at the best of times. And at this month's gathering in New Caledonia, the thorny issue of West Pappa was front and centre.

The four member nations did attempt a show of unity but it did not disguise conflicting views on West Papua's bid to join the MSG.

Pacific correspondent Sean Dorney was at the meeting of Melanesian leaders in New Caledonia and filed this report.

SEAN DORNEY, REPORTER: Twenty-five years ago, the four independent countries in Melanesia - Fiji, Vanuatu, Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea created a sub regional organisation, the Melanesian Spearhead Group.

And one of their aims was to help the Melanesian people of New Caledonia, the Kanaks - get their independence from France. That hasn't happened yet but France did agree to allow the Kanak Independence Movement - the FLNKS - to take up full membership of the Melanesian group. Now the Melanesian independence movement in West Papua - the Indonesian half of the main island of New Guinea, wants to join.

OTTO ONDAWAME, DOCTOR, WEST PAPUA NATIONAL COALITION FOR LIBERATION: Our delegation come here as a lost son of Melanesian to come here to ask for your support. We must unite and find a viable alternative to solve the longest conflict in our region. West Papua, your support is vital and urgently needed.

SEAN DORNEY: Indonesia took control of West Papua from the Dutch in 1963. And six years later, gathered just over 1,000 tribal leaders together to vote in favour of becoming part of Indonesia. It was called an act of free choice which the United Nations accepted.

PAULA MAKABORY, INSTITUE OF PAPUAN ADVOCACY AND HUMAN RIGHTS: The self determination which is given to West Papua they call the act of free choice for West Papuans say, no, not choice.
And then I think with all of this, the MSG recognise that the act of free choice was a sham for choice for West Papua.

SEAN DORNEY: At the official opening of the Melanesian Spearhead Group leaders meeting, the outgoing chairman, Fiji's military commander and Prime Minister, Commodore Frank Bainimarama, spoke of unity.

FRANK BAINIMARAMA, COMMODORE, PRIME MINISTER OF FIJI: As a result of our shared vision for closer regional integration, MSG solidarity has never been stronger.

SEAN DORNEY: But Papua New Guinea's Prime Minister, Peter O'Neill, visited Indonesia instead of attending the MSG meeting. While his stand-in, the Deputy PM, made it clear to the other MSG leaders that PNG regarded West Papua as an integral part of Indonesia.

Fiji revealed that Indonesia had offered to host a visit by Melanesian Foreign Ministers and so Fiji suggested the membership application by the West Papuans be put on hold.

Vanuatu's Prime Minister made an impassioned plea on behalf of the West Papuans and Sir Michael Somare invited as an elder statesman summed up the situation well, although he was not referring directly to West Papua.

MICHAEL SOMARE, SIR, FMR PNG PRIME MINISTER: In Melanesia we also very divided, we are not united. We have to unite.

SEAN DORNEY: In the end, the communique said the West Papuans application would be considered after the Foreign Ministers of the MSG countries visited Indonesia.

However, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu insisted on the inclusion of two sentences. The first said;

(EXTRACT FROM SPEARHEAD GROUP COMMUNIQUE)

"Leaders endorsed that the NSG filly supports the inalienable rights of the people of West Papua towards self-determination..."

And the second said that the leaders agreed that;

"The concerns of the MSG regarding the human rights violations and other forms of atrocities relating to the West Papuan people be raised with the Government of Indonesia..."

The Solomon Islands PM says social media is highlighting the human rights issues.

GORDON DARCY LILO, SOLOMON ISLANDS PRIME MINISTER: In the social network and the cyber space right now, you can't say that there is no war with Indonesia. There is immense war going on in Indonesia right now, in the cyber world. People are expressing their words, their bullets through the cyber network.

SEAN DORNEY: The Indonesians have observer status to the MSG and their delegation included West Papuans.

One, Franzalbert Joku, used to be a journalist in Papua New Guinea but now he's back home and is no longer supporting the independence cause.

FRANZALBERT JOKU, INDONESIAN DELEGATIN MEMBER: The situation... the human rights situation has improved markedly since the process of reforms and democratisation were introduced at the end of the '90s.

And that is also reflected in the situation in Papua.

SEAN DORNEY: However, he admitted there were political prisoners in West Papua.

FRANZALBERT JOKU: We are working from within to impress upon our own government, the government of Indonesia, to see if these political prisoners can be free.

SEAN DORNEY: The reactions of the West Papuan delegation to the communique were mixed.

WPNCL DELEGATE: We are very happy that our application not been thrown out but is still there on the agenda of MSG.

REX RUMAKIEK, WPNCL: They will come back empty handed. They won't see people they will want to go see, that means it's a waste of time. They could've made a decision right now instead of going to Indonesia.

SEAN DORNEY: The Solomon Islands Prime Minister says it's a practical outcome.

GORDON DARCY LILO: The offer that has been given by Indonesia to the Foreign Ministers of the MSG region is in my view a good stepping stone.

PAULA MAKABORY: It means that the foreign government representative that will come to West Papua, so it means that West Papua case is no longer internal problem of Indonesia and West Papua, it's international problems.

SEAN DORNEY: The Melanesian Foreign Ministers visit to Jakarta and West Papua should take place before the end of the year.

JIM MIDDLETON: Pacific correspondent Sean Dorney reports from New Caledonia.
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