West Papua: Melanesian Spearhead Group has a tough decision to make

By Sally Andrews

Lowy Institute’s Melanesia Program

As the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) prepares to discuss West Papua’s latest bid for membership, the ‘Papuan problem‘ poses a significant challenge to Melanesian states, who tread a fine line between responding to regional human rights concerns and managing relations with Indonesia.

Recent outcry surrounding West Papuan activist Benny Wenda’s unexpected arrival and removal from PNG demonstrates just how fraught the issue has become.

When Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Peter O’Neill acknowledged human rights concerns in the Papuan provinces in a public speech in February 2015, questions were raised about the implications for PNG’s relationship with Indonesia and its position within the Melanesian Spearhead Group.

The MSG’s instrumental role in raising the profile of New Caledonia’s Kanak independence movement has prompted Papuan activists to recognise the significance of MSG membership. Hoping to gain a regional platform from which serious human rights, sovereignty and development concerns in the Papuan provinces can be raised, West Papua submitted an unsuccessful application to the Group in October 2013.

One of the key issues impeding Papuan representation is the leverage exercised by Indonesia within the MSG. Indonesia submitted a membership application in 2010, and despite strong opposition from Vanuatu, Indonesia won observer status in 2011 with the help of Fiji Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama, then Chairman of the MSG’s Leader Summit, and the support of Sir Michael Somare, then Prime Minister of PNG.

Enabling Indonesian membership has strengthened Fiji’s relationship with Indonesia but has alienated Vanuatu and deepened perceptions that Indonesian participation has jeopardised Papuan chances of representation.

Before votes were cast on the Papuan application in 2013, the Indonesian foreign minister suggested that the MSG undertake a fact-finding visit to Papua to investigate human rights concerns. Vanuatu boycotted the visit and repudiated the statement released in January 2014 by the remaining MSG foreign ministers, who resolved to uphold respect for Indonesia’s territorial sovereignty.

Maintaining a commitment to non-interference in Indonesian domestic affairs and supporting Papuans’ ‘inalienable rights’ towards self-determination seems likely to generate problems for the MSG in 2015. Fiji and PNG have vested interests in maintaining good relations with Indonesia, with growing investment, military and trade links providing a tense backdrop to discussions concerning Papua. Indonesian sensitivity about Papuan independence has only increased since Timor Leste’s independence in 2002. There are real concerns about the potential for diplomatic and commercial blowback that may face Fiji and PNG as the price of supporting Papuan membership.

Lack of cohesion between the West Papuan National Council for Liberation (WPNCL) and the rest of the independence movement has also impeded the membership bid. Comprised of 28 political parties and NGOs, the WPNCL’s claim to represent 2.5 million West Papuans was rejected on grounds that too few of the organisations were based in Papua, raising speculation that the bid was being driven by sympathisers in the West at the expense of grassroots participation.

A second application has since been submitted by a new, larger and more representative umbrella coalition, the United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP). Led by spokesperson Benny Wenda, the ULMWP application will be discussed at the official 20th Leaders’ Summit in Honiara in July 2015.

Having addressed problems in the WPNCL application, reception of ULMWP’s bid is still difficult to predict. Vanuatu has a long history of Papuan advocacy, promoting Papuan membership in both the MSG and the Pacific Islands Forum, whilst FLNKS is also a strong supporter. The host of this year’s MSG Summit, Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare, has commented on the need for the MSG to assume leadership on human rights in Papua, but his position on the membership application is unclear.

Fiji, significantly, is yet to take a position. As for PNG, Prime Minister O’Neill’s statement may yet prove the game changer for the MSG; whilst PNG’s Foreign Minister Rimbink Pato ‘clarified’ O’Neill’s February statement by re-asserting that PNG held full support for Indonesia, O’Neill subsequently urged Indonesia to support Papuan membership.

One important factor in the mix is the diplomatic tension between PNG and Fiji. Hints that the PNG leadership is becoming more sympathetic are unlikely to prompt support for Papuan membership from Fiji. Having championed Indonesia’s application in 2011, the Fiji leadership may judge that its interests lie in declining to make a decision whilst further strengthening relations with Indonesia.

PNG may pursue the Papuan cause solely as a human rights issue. As the host of the next Pacific Islands Forum leaders’ meeting in September 2015, PNG may seek to avoid any impression of disunity at a sub-regional level. In either case, it is entirely possible that the Papuan application will be left to flounder, trumped by the interests of the two most influential Melanesian states.

Meanwhile, advocacy from civil society groups across the Pacific Islands is contributing to a perception that there is growing popular support for Papuan representation. Groups such as the Pacific Council of Churches, Free West Papua Campaign, Peace Movement Aotearoa, Pacific Network on Globalisation and We Bleed Black and Red have been mounting public protests, emphasising the public interest in the Papuan cause to political leaders.

Support for West Papua is mounting within Fiji itself, with domestic pressure bearing upon Bainimarama from the Fiji Solidarity Movement, Fiji Council of Churches and even Fiji Rugby Union. This activism may yet prompt the Prime Minister to take the risk of offending Indonesia by supporting Papuan membership, if only as a means to capture popular sentiment. The deepening military ties between the two nations, however, in addition to apparent silence on the Papuan issue at the 1st March meetings between the Indonesian and Fijian Foreign Ministers, has left supporters of the application in doubt.

Difficult decisions lie ahead for the members of the Melanesian Spearhead Group, who must weigh the value of relationships with Indonesia against the opportunity to recognise West Papuans, potentially do something about persistent human rights concerns and also capitalise on the emergence of a strong popular Melanesian regional identity.

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Fiji wants Australia out of Pacific Islands Forum

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By Rowan Callick

THE AUSTRALIAN

Fijian Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama wants Australia or New Zealand forced out of the ­Pacific Islands Forum that they chiefly fund and new countries admitted.

Analysts widely believe that Fiji especially wants to invite China, which was a strong supporter of Mr Bainimarama during his eight years of military rule following his coup, to join the PIF, which is the peak regional political body.

Steven Ciobo, who was rec­ently appointed Australia’s Parliamentary Secretary to Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and to Trade and Investment Minister Andrew Robb, returned at the weekend from his first official visit to Suva, where he met Fiji’s Foreign Minister Inoke Kubuobola.

Mr Ciobo said he had “expressed the view that Australia ­respectfully disagrees with being levered out of the PIF.

“We hold the belief that ongoing dialogue is important, to which Fiji agrees,” he added.

Ms Bishop had consistently stressed both the importance of the ­relationship with Fiji, and that Australia was a neighbour within the Pacific, Mr Ciobo said.

Ms Bishop, seeking to defuse the clash with Suva over the forum and other regional organisations, last year announced with Mr Kubuo­bola that a meeting would be held in Sydney in March to discuss such structures.

The PIF whose secretariat, based in Suva, is now headed by prominent Papua New Guinean Meg Taylor, is made up of ­14 island nation members as well as Canberra and Wellington, whose prime ministers meet at an annual summit.

Fiji’s membership was suspended during military rule, but it was invited back after last year’s national election won by Mr Bainimarama.

The meeting planned for last month, to which foreign ministers from the region were invited, was postponed. This was attributed to difficulties in aligning diaries.

Other island countries had ­expressed a reluctance to attend, however, with similar issues having already been the subject of a major review led by former PNG Prime Minister Mekere Morauta, which had been unanimously supported at last year’s summit of forum leaders.

Since no new date for the ­Sydney discussion has been announced, it is likely this issue will be left to the next PIF leaders’ summit in Port Moresby in mid-September, coinciding with the 40th anniversary of PNG’s independence from Australia.

PNG Prime Minister Peter O’Neill told The Australian that, as the host, “I have written to invite Prime Minister Bainimarama to come, of course, welcoming him as a member of our community.

“He has done the right thing in reinstating democratic government, and there’s no reason why he shouldn’t fully participate in the leaders’ meeting, so we look forward to him coming to PNG as a welcome guest.”

During Fiji’s suspension from the forum, Mr Bainimarama set up a rival regional group — the Pacific Islands Development Forum — but it failed to attract significant support away from the PIF.

Thus a scenario is being set up whereby Mr Bainimarama’s presence at or absence from the next forum summit, in PNG, threatens to overshadow the meeting.

There’s a deficit in regional architecture

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The Pacific Network on Globalisation (PANG) as part of its regionalism project caught up with the Executive Director Foundation of the Peoples of the South Pacific International (FSPI) Rex Horoi, to get his thoughts on the current regional architecture. The interview was done by Joey Tau (PANG Media and Communications Officer) 

JT: Having an established background in education, and being a long serving diplomat for the Solomon Islands and the region, what’s your take on regional architecture two decades ago?

RH: The architecture has a big deficit since it was designed and formed some thirty to forty years ago. The flaw in its design has to do with the way it was formulated, that it was not an inclusive body. It was a body or rather a space for governments only. So over the years, this has not changed and the critical thinking or mandate is not there to provide space for Pacific leaders from all sectors. It doesn’t have all sectors of society represented…and we need to establish a space for all parties to be involved, all sectors including civil sector, public sector and private sector. Inclusiveness is what is missing from the regional architecture.

JT: In your capacity, you served as Solomon Islands Permanent Representative to the United Nations, and you also served as the representative of smaller island developing states (SIDS) to the Barbados conference during your term. What were some of the key agendas for our region during your term of representation?

RH: For the first time in 1992, at the Rio conference it was recognized by the international community that the Small Island Developing States (SIDS) do have a voice and through the alliance of small island states (AOSIS) it was decided by the UN as an entity to hold a special conference for SIDS. In 1994 the SIDS conference was hosted in Barbados to chart out a blueprint for small island   developing states which has been on the table for the UN for a long time, and the blueprint was reviewed in Mauritius in 2006, and in Samoa last year.

JT: Has SIDS fitted in with regional planning and policy?

RH: Well the problem with the regional architecture is that it could not deliver the action plan for SIDS. Needed resources including technical capacity were not there. BoP Action Plan could not be delivered because governments, the private sector and civil society organizations needed help from donors; they needed help in critical thinking and in implementation. The regional architecture needed the private and civil society sectors to assist the government sector to implement the program of action. The blueprint will remain just as a blueprint without action for our region if we don’t involve all sectors of society. Governments just cannot do it alone so accept what is and face a reality check. What is needed is the design, resources, critical thinking, human capacity and the intellectual capacity of the pacific people being brought together by leaders of the Pacific to address green growth and sustainable development of SIDS in the short, medium and long term. There needs to be an alignment of the SIDS outcomes with national development plans of governments in the region, and that needs an inclusive body to ensure that implementation happens in the region.

JT: So much has changed since the 1970s and the region itself is faced with complex challenges. What’s your take on the current challenges in the regional architecture?

RH: The vision by the leaders that was expressed in the Pacific Plan has no teeth, and the vision needs some teeth to make it happen. We need champion leaders in the public, private and civil society sectors to come together and make the regional planning through the regional architecture to be inclusive. So the fact that the regional architecture is not inclusive, that is a big deficit, and that deficit has to be addressed…if it is not addressed it’s going to be another entity to be created. You can see now that Fiji and other PICs are advancing Pacific Islands Development Forum (PIDF) a new regional architecture to address green growth. So PIDF is now a parallel process to the Pacific Islands Forum…simply because that is a way of addressing the deficit in the regional architecture. PIDF is an inclusive entity and this is the process or space provided to leaders to discuss what the issues are, and how all sectors can be included to focus on pacific issues. This process is void of Australia and New Zealand, and the fact why both were excluded is deliberate to ensure that the space provided for pacific leaders is not dominated by Australia and New Zealand…but if we are to raise the bar, Australia and New Zealand have to learn to listen to Pacific voices rather than dominating the process and the circle of action and implementation.

JT: How do you see regional institutions and their performance to meeting some these complex challenges?

RH: Regional entities such as SPC, FFA, SPREP and other CROP agencies are important and they have specific mandates to support governments but the biggest problem they encounter is that they are like mini governments at the top without physical presence at the national level…they are so big that they act mini like governments. They are helping to design policy, but they don’t assist in implementing the policies in the region. So their biggest problem as regional CROP agencies has to do with action at the national level. They advice on policy and expect respective governments to implement while governments need financial and technical resources to make things happen on the ground. If these CROP agencies are really serious, they need to have establishments on ground in Pacific Island countries, and they need to sit on national committees to assist and advice on policy implementation. Thus this will see some alignment on regional policy with national and local policies. There is a disconnection between regional and national policies at the moment.

JT: You now serve as the executive director for the Foundation of the Peoples of the South Pacific International (FSPI). FSPI remains an established NGO within the region. Do you think NGOs are serving our region as key development partners?

RH: Regional non-governmental organizations or non-state actors are key partners and serving the region well. But the missing link is that the regional architecture (or regional bodies/CROP agencies) doesn’t include NGOs in their planning. And the non inclusion of civil society organizations is a deficit itself. Because regional NGOs have partners on ground, and have communities in their work…so they do get around the grassroots and implement projects. So the way forward for CROP agencies is to embrace civil society organizations and plan with them.

From the San Cristobal (Makira) in the Solomon Islands, Rex Horoi has an established background in education and administration in the Solomon Islands. In his career, Mr Horoi served as the as Solomon Islands Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Ambassador to the United States and High Commissioner to Canada based in New York. He is currently the Executive Director for the Foundation of the Peoples of the South Pacific International (FSPI).

Tonga opposed to PIF exclusions

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Source: Radio New Zealand International

The new government in Tonga says it is opposed to moves initiated by Fiji to push New Zealand and Australia out of the Pacific Islands Forum.

The issue was raised during this week’s visit to Tonga by Australia’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Julie Bishop, when she met the Prime Minister, Akilisi Pohiva.

Prime Minister Pohiva says as many Tongans live in Australia and New Zealand, it would be unwise to turn around and consider Fiji’s position to form a new regional organisation.

Fiji set up the Pacific Islands Development Forum after being suspended from the Forum in 2009 because the Fiji regime reneged on its promise made to Forum leaders that it would restore democracy by 2009.

After the suspension was lifted, Fiji said it would not rejoin the Forum unless Australia and New Zealand changed their status as members to that of a development partner.

Pohiva says Tonga will continue to remain an independent sovereign state and continue to support New Zealand and Australia as members of the Forum.

Pacific Leaders appoint specialist Sub-Committee on Regionalism

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By Online Editor

31st of March 2015, Fiji

Acting on behalf of Pacific Island Forum Leaders, the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat (PIFS) announced the appointment of eight representatives from across the region to the new Specialist Sub-Committee on Regionalism (SSCR).

The Sub-committee was set up at the request of Pacific Islands Forum Leaders at their Special Retreat in Cook Islands in May 2014 and at their annual Forum in Palau in July 2014

The Specialist Sub-Committee for Regionalism was selected by a Forum Troika panel of three officials, nominated by Palau, Marshall Islands and Papua New Guinea, representing the current, former and in-coming Forum Chairs respectively.

The Sub-committee plays a key role in implementing the Framework for Pacific Regionalism, adopted by the Pacific Island leaders, by identifying and assessing regional initiatives for consideration by Pacific Island Leaders at their annual forum.

The eight members of the Specialist Sub-Committee will meet on 13-14 April in Suva to discuss their terms of reference; familiarise themselves with the Framework for Pacific Regionalism; and meet with key stakeholders.

Dame Meg Taylor, Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, which implements the mandates of the Pacific leaders, said “the Sub-committee’s work is vital in shaping the future Pacific regional agenda. This committee is tasked with identifying truly game-changing initiatives to transform the region, which will be put to Leaders for their consideration”.

Secretary General Taylor saw the work of Specialist Sub-committee for Regionalism as a significant improvement in the way development is considered and implemented in the region: “The Sub-committee’s work is a key part of the Framework for Pacific Regionalism and represents a shift in the development paradigm in our region – to one where our Leaders will be positioned to determine the agenda and priorities for our region”.

The eight SSCR members are:

Melanesia – Leonard Louma (PNG), Micronesia – Gustav Aitaro (Palau), Polynesia – Lopeti Senituli (Tonga), Australia/New Zealand – John Davidson (Australia), Smaller Island States – Teresa Manarangi-Trott (Cook Islands), Civil Society – William Kostka (FSM), Private Sector –  Peter Kiely (NZ), Chair – Dame Meg Taylor, DBE (PIFS).

SOURCE: PIFS/PACNEWS

Disconnection between regional and national governments identified as one of the deficits of the regional architecture, says Horoi

 Rex H

By Online Editor
Source: PACNEWS

30th of March, 2015, Fiji

The head of a regional civil society group says regional organisations have a key role in the proposed regional architecture endorsed by Pacific Leaders but there is a ‘disconnection’ in regional policies and implementation at the national government level.

And the biggest problem observed over the years is that regional organisations are acting like ‘mini-governments’ without physical presence at the national level, said Rex Horoi, the Executive Director of the Foundation of the Peoples of the South Pacific (FSPI).

Horoi acknowledges that regional organisations such as the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC), Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA), Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) and others are helping to design policies, but they are not assisting with implementation.

“The problem has to do with action at the national level. They advise on policy and expect respective governments to implement while governments need financial and technical resources to make things happen on the ground.

“If these CROP agencies are really serious, they need to have establishments on the ground in Pacific Island Countries. They need to sit on national committees to assist and advice on policy implementation. This will see some alignment on regional policy with national and local policies, said Horoi.

In addition, ‘the vision expressed by Leaders in the Pacific Plan has no teeth.’

“We need champion leaders in the public, private and civil society sectors to come together and make the regional planning through the regional architecture to be inclusive. The fact that the regional architecture is not inclusive will need to be addressed. If it is not addressed, other regional entities with be created.

“You can see now that Fiji and other Pacific Island Countries are advancing the Pacific Islands Development Forum (PIDF) as a new regional architecture to address green growth. PIDF is now a parallel process to the Pacific Islands Forum simply because that is a way of addressing the deficit in the regional architecture, said Horoi.

He said PIDF is an inclusive entity and this is the process or space provided to Leaders to discuss what the issues are, and how all sectors can be included to focus on Pacific issues.

“This process is void of Australia and New Zealand and the fact why both were excluded is deliberate to ensure that the space provided for Pacific Leaders is not dominated by Australia and New Zealand. But if we are to raise the bar, Australia and New Zealand have to learn to listen to Pacific voices rather than dominating the process and the circle of action and implementation, said Horoi.

The former Solomon Islands diplomat identified the non-inclusion of civil societies in the consultation of the new regional architecture as another ‘deficit’.

“Inclusiveness is what is missing from the regional architecture, said Horoi.

This is not a new issue. This deficit, Horoi said existed 40 years ago when the original regional architecture was designed.

“The flaw in its design has to do with the way it was formulated, that it was not an inclusive body. It was a body or rather a space for governments only. Over the years, this has not changed and the critical thinking or mandate is not there to provide space for Pacific leaders from all sectors. It doesn’t have all sectors of society represented. We need to establish a space for all parties to be involved, all sectors including civil sector, public sector and private sector, said Horoi.

Horoi was interviewed by the Pacific Network on Globalisation (PANG) as part of its regionalism project series

PANG denounces World Bank’s Conference on land and poverty

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By Online Editor

Source: PACNEWS/PANG

Every spring for the last fifteen years, the World Bank has organized the “Conference on Land and Poverty,” which brings together corporations, governments and civil society groups.

The aim is to discuss how to “improve land governance.” Whereas the 16th conference took place in Washington D.C. from March 23 to 27, hundreds of civil society organizations including the Pacific Network on Globalisation (PANG) are denouncing the World Bank’s role in global land grabs and its deceitful leadership on land issues.

In 2013, the Oakland Institute supported by the PANG and the Bismarck Ramu Group (BRG) released a REPORT documenting the fraudulent land grabbing that was taking place in Papua New Guinea under the pretext of making land available for productive use, through what was called the Special Agriculture Business Lease (SABL).

Despite the alarming findings by the PNG Government’s own COMMISSION of Inquiry into the land grab, the government has not taken concrete or decisive action to cancel deceptive land deals, stop illegal logging and return land to customary land owners, many of whom are still waiting for justice today, while companies continue to operate.

“The big question is whose interest does the World Bank really serves. While they spend considerable time and MONEY painting themselves as champions of the poor, the Bank has a battery of practices and policies that suggest a very different truth,” said Anuradha Mittal of the Oakland Institute, adding that the World Bank and other financial institutions ongoing silence on the massive theft of land based resources in PNG challenges the perception of the Bank as champions of the poor.

While the global Our Land Our Business campaign has been focused heavily on land grabs, the Pacific Network on Globalisation is prioritizing a much lesser known wave of grabbing that is taking place in the Pacific – ocean grabbing.  PANG is putting the World Bank and other financial institutions on notice especially around ocean governance and oceanic resources as external interest in the Pacific’s natural resources grow.

A “Wild West” mentality has resulted as foreign corporations rush to secure access to what’s considered the last frontier for resources – the Pacific’s fisheries and deep sea minerals amongst others.

“Like land grabbing, ocean grabbing has the potential for equal and devastating impact on coastal communities in the Pacific, whose food sovereignty and livelihoods are likely to be impacted. Subsistence fishing provides up to 90% of protein intake for coastal communities and sustained access to oceanic resources is a prerequisite to ensure livelihood support for the majority of Pacific communities,” says Maureen Penjueli, PANG coordinator.

The PANG along with other NGOs have been critical of the push by national governments, supported by regional technical agencies such as SOPAC and the Pacific Islands Forum that deliberately set out to undermine numerous international law norms such as the Precautionary Principle, the right to free and Prior Informed Consent and to weaken regulation REQUIREMENTS for Environment Impact Assessments around the governance of oceanic resources.

Penjueli says the push to weaken regulation is in line with the Bank and other financial institutions’ vision which views the ocean as a market COMMODITY to enable corporate exploitation of natural ocean resources.

“Through the World Bank’s Doing Business REPORT and accompanying advisory services, the Bank uses its financial and political might to force countries to adopt business-friendly reforms, which create conditions that priorities the access of corporations to developing countries oceanic and natural resources at the expense of social, cultural, human and environmental rights,” she said.

Youngsolwarans asserts Pacific as Nesia, not Indonesia

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MEDIA RELEASE
1st of April, 2015.

Suva, Fiji – Today the Youngsolwarans from the Pacific launched an online protest call, I am NESIA, affirming the Pacific as NESIA and not Indonesia.

Through its regional campaign, We Bleed Black and Red, the group is protesting in response to the Indonesian Government’s plan to have an application for full membership before the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG).

This call comes after recent media reports indicating the Indonesian Government’s intention to have five provinces in West Papua become a member of the MSG.

PNG LOOP reported that the Indonesian Government’s consultants on MSG and Pacific Affairs, Franzalbert Joku and Nick Messet claim that the unified approach to have five provinces as representatives of Indonesia at MSG is strongly supported by PNG, Fiji and the Solomon Islands.

Spokesperson of Youngsolwarans Fiji, Vuetasau Buatoka Junior says there is currently an application by the United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP) before MSG for full membership, which has strong support by people in the Pacific.

“If this is the Indonesian Government’s counter approach towards the ULMWP’s application, we the Youngsolwarans are calling on our Melanesian leaders to refrain from supporting this proposal,” said Mr Buatoka Junior.

He said media reports stated that the Indonesian Government is currently considering Prime Minister Peter O’Neill’s invitation for full membership in the Pacific Islands Forum, when its current observer status in the MSG is inherited by its five provinces with a new and elevated status as a full member.

He added that the current Indonesian foreign policy whilst very clever, demonstrates amnesia in policy making by claiming Indonesia as being part of Melanesia to secure a seat at the regional table.

A member of Youngsolwarans New Zealand, Tekura Moekaá protested that the Indonesian Government should not use the composition of the representative body for the Melanesians of Indonesia as a tactic to undermine ULMWP’s MSG application, which holds the aspirations and dreams for a free and independent West Papua.

“West Papuans are Melanesians of the Pacific, and the Indonesian Government should not use our Melanesian or NESIA brothers and sisters to buy their way into regional forum spaces, thus suppressing them at region,” said Tekura.

“We strongly urging our Pacific leaders and all of NESIA to stand in solidarity and recognize the United Liberation Movement for West Papua,” urged Tekura.

The online protest call is an affirmation of Pacific identity to reclaim West Papua as Melanesians and Pacific people.

Ends//