The leader of the United Movement for the Liberation of West Papua met for the first time with a head of government from the region. Along with the Pacific Conference of Churches, the Fijian Prime Minister reiterated his support for the independence movement’s membership as a full member of the Melanesian Spearhead Group.
Manokwari () – The Fiji Islands have announced their support for the accession of West Papua to the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG), an intergovernmental organization whose objective is to promote economic growth among the countries of the region. However, West Papua is not an independent state, but an Indonesian province that has the role of observer within the organization, while Indonesia has the role of associate member. The Pacific Conference of Churches (PCC) also supports its full adherence to the GMS, following in the footsteps of the admission to the regional bloc of the Kanak National Liberation Socialist Front, the independence movement of New Caledonia.
Last week, Fiji’s Prime Minister Sitiveni Rabuka met for the first time with Benny Wenda, leader of the United Liberation Movement of West Papua (ULMWP). After the meeting, Rabuka tweeted: “Yes, we will support them (referring to the West Papua United Liberation Movement) because they are Melanesian. I am more confident in getting their full MSG membership. I am not taking it for granted. The dynamic may have slightly changed, but the principles are the same.
However, the Fijian Prime Minister also pointed to RNZ Pacific that “sovereignty issues” will have to be addressed. Wenda, for his part, assured that Rabuka received him with open arms and heard about the atrocities regarding human rights violations suffered by indigenous Papuans. “The people of West Papua are celebrating because after 16 years someone has sided with West Papua and has flown the flag with the Morning Star,” the symbol of the separatists, together with the president of the United Liberation Movement. “It gives us confidence that the issue is now in the hands of Melanesia,” Wenda added.
The Pacific Conference of Churches also supported the Movement in “its continued call for self-determination for the people of West Papua and its desire to put an end to human rights abuses perpetrated by the Indonesian security forces,” read a statement. statement. “The PCC reiterates its position that the ULMWP should be consulted by governments, the United Nations and the European Union on matters related to West Papua, as the recognized representative of the Papuan people,” and further calls to “boycott the purchase of all Indonesian products sold in the Pacific and to engage in activities and programs organized or supported by the Indonesian government to draw attention to the plight of the Papuan people”.
More cautious was the Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea, James Marape, who in a press conference prior to the meeting between Wenda and Rabuka had stressed that Indonesia’s sovereignty over Papua must be respected. Marape stated that although Papua New Guinea is sympathetic to West Papuan Melanesians, the province “is still part of Indonesia”.
The Melanesian Spearhead Group includes the countries that consider themselves part of Melanesia: Fiji, the Kanak National Socialist Liberation Front of New Caledonia, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu, which chairs it. East Timor also has observer status. West Papua separatists applied for membership twice, in 2015 and 2019.
The ULMWP is an umbrella organization created in Vanuatu in 2014 that brings together the three main independence movements of West Papua, which separated from the other Indonesian province of Papua in 2003. Today, along with other provinces, it enjoys its own organization.