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West Papuan membership of MSG a sensitive topic
Both sides of politics in Australia recognise Indonesia's sovereignty over West Papua.

Jim Middleton speaks to Peter Forau, Director General of the Melanesian Spearhead Group.
JIM MIDDLETON, PRESENTER: Both sides of politics in Australia recognise Indonesia's sovereignty over West Papua. Peter Forau is Director General of the Melanesian Spearhead Group.

Peter Forau, thank you for your time.


JIM MIDDLETON: First up, the question of MSG membership for West Papuans. Is this an issue for the grouping of fraternal relations or is it about sovereignty?.

PETER FORAU: This is a matter that is quite sensitive and we need to be careful about how we dealt with it. The request that has come from the representatives of the West Papua communities, is for us to consider membership for them in the MSG.

And I would expect that in considering that there might be some discussions about sovereignty over West Papua which of course is a discussion that that will involve the government of Indonesia.

JIM MIDDLETON: Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr says that as far as this issue is concerned the MSG should be concerned about human rights in West Papua rather than about sovereignty. And also that Indonesia would be prepared for a discussion along those lines.

What would be the attitude within the MSG to that approach?

PETER FORAU: I think you can't necessarily separate the two because the issues are around human rights. But the Government that is in West Papua and so what our leaders have decided to do is to make a strong statement about the issues of human rights abuses. But at the same time, they have decided to take a holistic approach about the application from West Papua, which is to respect Indonesia and have some dialogue and discussions with them about the process for finally taking a decision about the membership application from the West Papua representatives.

JIM MIDDLETON: Having a discussion with Indonesia about sovereignty and West Papua would have significant and severe implications for some of your members, notably your biggest member Papua New Guinea.

It could have a very serious impact on relations between those two country, could it not?

PETER FORAU: Yes, that is why I think our leaders have decided to take this approach. It is in appreciation of the relationship that some of our members have with Indonesia. And I think they want to ensure that whatever happens in terms of the decision that might eventuate from a dialogue with Indonesia is one that does not create unhappiness for any of our members in terms of their relationship with Indonesia.

JIM MIDDLETON: What has Jakarta had to say about the application for membership of the MSG from West Papua?

PETER FORAU: Well indirectly they have spoken to some of our members and some of our members have been kind enough to let us know. An invitation has been issued for our Foreign Ministers to visit Jakarta through the Minister of foreign affairs office of the Republic of Fiji. Our leaders have accepted that invitation. The international position about the issue with West Papua have been reiterated by some of our members, particularly the independent state of Papua New Guinea as well as Solomon Islands.

They have clearly stated in the primary in Noumea that West Papua is a better West Papua is a matter for Indonesia to address.

JIM MIDDLETON: On the question of human rights concerns, what difference would it make to the MSG's attitude if Indonesia were Indonesia were prepared to revisit the issue of self determination and the act of self determination which has come under much criticism from the international community, something that goes back to the 1960s, if Indonesia were prepared to revisit that issue?

PETER FORAU: I think that would be a great welcome for everyone, including the MSG. I think that the issues about human rights are related to the issue for the cause of West Papuans in terms of their interest to achieve some independence.

And I think you cannot separate the two as I was saying earlier. You have to address them in a holistic way.

JIM MIDDLETON: Peter Forau, thank you very much for your time.

PETER FORAU: Thank you. Thanks for the opportunity, Jim.
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