MSG chairman takes firm stand on West Papua
The chairman of the Melanesian Spearhead Group, Manasseh Sogavare, says the regional body is pushing for an urgent intervention by the United Nations in West Papua. He made the statement while declaring his country, Solomon Islands' support for the United Liberation Movement for West Papua's bid to be a full member of the MSG.
The chairman of the Melanesian Spearhead Group, Manasseh Sogavare, says the regional body is pushing for an urgent intervention by the United Nations in West Papua.
Mr Sogavare, who is the prime minister of Solomon Islands, has also declared his country's support for the bid by the United Liberation Movement for West Papua's to be a full member of the MSG.
Johnny Blades has been following this story:
JOHNNY BLADES: So Manasseh Sogavare has just released this very strongly-worded statement saying that he wants to pursue West Papua human rights abuses as an issue at the United Nations level because he's expressed frustration that Indonesia - since being granted associate member status in the MSG last year - has rebuffed his request for dialogue about West Papua and about concerns over human rights abuses there. He says the next step is to take it a notch higher, to the UN. The other thing of course is that he's come out in support of Vanuatu's proposal for the United Liberation Movement for West Papua to have full membership in the MSG - you'll remember last year they were granted observer status - so that would seem to add to Vanuatu and New Caledonia's Kanaks supporting that particular bid.
DON WISEMAN: What do the other members of the MSG think about all of this, what are they saying?
JB: Well Fiji and Papua New Guinea haven't said anything yet. But they've sort of been closening ties with Jakarta. And an Indonesian state minister recently visited those countries and said he had secured support from Port Moresby and Suva for Indonesia's own bid for full membership at the MSG. So really it remains to be seen whether collectively the MSG members will go for this idea of elevating the West Papuan membership.
DW: Now, the MSG seemed to be one of those sub-regional bodies on the move a couple of years ago, but it's got this issue of West Papua where it seems divided, and it's also - it would seem - divided over who the new director-general should be. Mr Sogavare has said something about this just recently.
JB: Last month he confirmed that the Fijian Amena Yauvoli had been selected for the role. The role's been vacant since last year. But then Vanuatu and Papua New Guinea subsequently objected to what appeared to be a premature confirmation of that, because the appointment was supposed to be finalised at this upcoming MSG leaders summit which has actually now been postponed until next month in Port Moresby - that's a change in venue from Vanuatu. And now with this statement, Sogavare has sort of also accepted that it will be decided at the summit rather than last month, as was Fiji's desire. Fiji had originally announced that their diplomat had got the job and that certainly came as a surprise to Vanuatu which has its own nomination, and they were quite unhappy about that. So there are divisions there amongst this and it seems in proximity to the whole wrangle over West Papua because this is all around the time that the Indonesian government delegation had been to Fiji. And we know there are concerns about the MSG secretariat lacking funding. There seems to be some suggestion that perhaps Indonesia could offer some more money to the MSG if perhaps the right candidate was put forward for the director-general's job.
DW: This move from Port Vila to Port Moresby is a fascinating one, isn't it? Is there any reason why that has happened?
JB: It's hard to say. One might see that if it's possibly more in PNG's domain, maybe they have more control over how things might pan out in terms of the decision about this West Papuan membership. It could be also that it's an attempt to make it harder for the West Papuans who are in the Liberation Movement - a lot its leaders are exiled - harder for them to actually get to the summit and therefore to have an influence on what the outcome might be about this membership question.
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