Sogavare: Membership bids to test MSG

6:59 pm on 24 June 2015

The Solomon Islands Prime Minister says membership applications being considered at this week's Melanesian Spearhead Group leaders summit will be a test.

Speaking as host and new Chair of the MSG at the summit's opening ceremony, Manasseh Sogavare said the world is watching to see whether the MSG will accept West Papuan into the fold.

Manasseh Sogavare

Manasseh Sogavare Photo: RNZI Koroi Hawkins

Manasseh Sogavare says the applications before the leaders will test MSG on its position on Human Rights and the rule of law.

He was referring to the application by the United Liberation Movement for West Papua to be a full member of MSG, and an application by Indonesia to have its current observer status elevated to associate member.

MSG leaders have hinted that the West Papuan bid is likely to fall short, but Mr Sogavare has voiced support for West Papuans to have observer status. Members of the West Papua delegation at the summit shed tears as they gathered around the Solomon Islands Prime Minister after his speech.

They say the Sogavare speech gives them hope.

PNG PM reiterates support for greater MSG representation.

Papua New Guinea's prime minister has reiterated his support for representation of all Indonesian provinces with Melanesian ethnicity at the Melanesian Spearhead Group.

Peter O'Neill is due in Honiara tomorrow to join fellow leaders of MSG member states at their leaders summit.

Leaders are expected to this week make a decision on an application for full membership in the MSG by the United Liberation Movement for West Papua.

Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Peter O'Neill.

Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Peter O'Neill. Photo: RNZI / Johnny Blades

Mr O'Neill has indicated his preference for greater MSG representation for all Indonesia's Melanesians, of whom there are estimated to be eleven million across five provinces.

The ULMWP however is representing indigenous Melanesians of West Papua and Papua provinces, who largely regard themselves as distinct from other Indonesian peoples.

Indonesia currently has observer status at the MSG but at this week's summit, leaders are understood to be considering elevating it to associate member status.

Mr O'Neill told PNG media that he welcomes West Papuan participation at the MSG but that it has to be done properly, in an orderly manner.

He says those representing West Papua must be elected, mandated leaders, rather than random groups or activists.

The prime minister has advocated for the elected governors of the five Indonesian provinces to represent their people at the MSG.

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