Bougainville election: Me’ekamui militia group backs incumbent president John Momis as voting continues
PHOTO John Momis, incumbent president of the Autonomous Region of Bougainville.
PHOTO John Momis, incumbent president of the Autonomous Region of Bougainville.

In a surprise move, the hardline Me’ekamui militia group has voiced its support for incumbent president John Momis in the election underway in Bougainville.

The autonomous region in Papua New Guinea will soon begin a five-year window during which it will hold a referendum on independence from the mainland.

The president elected in this vote will negotiate the terms and date of the referendum, part of a peace agreement signed after the civil war with PNG.

Of the nine presidential candidates, Mr Momis is the favourite to win when the results are announced next month.

The Me’ekamui militia, which controls access to the controversial Panguna mine, had thrown its support behind Mr Momis, who they said has promised to reserve seats for them in future governments.

“I declare that Momis has 100 per cent [support] from the people here and most of the Me’ekamui government,” Me’ekamui defence force commander Moses Pipilo said.

The office of Mr Momis, a former Catholic priest and one of the only candidates who is not an ex-combatant, did not confirm seats had been reserved for militia members.

The Me’ekamui government are the landowners of the Panguna copper mine, which closed in 1989 when environmental damage and compensation sparked the civil war.

‘Small hiccups’ in largely smooth week of voting

The ABC’s PNG correspondent Liam Cochrane, who is in Bougainville, described the Panguna polling station as “like time had left it behind”, with “lush jungle” beginning to take over the empty buildings left behind by the conflict.

But he said in the largely idyllic and conflict-free week of voting, there were “a few hiccups”.

He said people had complained that illiterate voters were being assisted by only one other person and were potentially being guided towards one candidate.

“A few people told us that what they wanted is for at least two people to help these illiterate voters cast their ballots and make it a more neutral process,” Cochrane said.

At some polling stations people turned up to vote but found their names were not on the electoral roll.

“This was particularly a problem in the polling station at Mabiri,” Cochrane told Radio Australia’s Pacific Beat.

“Some of the international observers I spoke to said they turned up to find that 130-odd were enrolled on the roll and only 17 females, so something clearly has gone very wrong with the roll there.

“And when voters turned up, others found the situation and simply turned around in disgust.”

There will be a further week of polling allowed for bad weather or other delays next week followed by a week of counting, with a similar contingency week.

A result is expected on June 8.

Source: http://mobile.abc.net.au/

Address by Hon. Peter O’Neill CMG MP, Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea at the Lowy Institute for International Policy

Thank you, Dr Fullilove.

Member of the Diplomatic Corps,

Business Leaders,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

 

It is a pleasure to be invited once again to address the Lowy Institute for International Policy.

I want to begin by strongly affirming our support for the wide-ranging and very contemporary role the Lowy Institute plays in Papua New Guinea, and the wider Pacific.

 

Your role focuses on expanding issues including people-to-people relations, which I see as being the heart of the relations between countries in the region.

This afternoon, I would like to give you a better perspective on the some of the domestic policy advances that we are making Papua New Guinea which is bringing about change and stimulating development in our country.

Then provide you with insight on how we are growing regional and international role, including management of the foreign policy engagement with Australia and neighbours in the region.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Papua New Guinea is entering a period of change never experienced before. There are many contributing factors to this change. In large part, this can be found in the growth of our economy, the expansion of the middle class with new employment opportunities, and increasing disposable incomes that further feeds business growth.

As a result there is a renewed hope and confidence amongst our people about the future of Papua New Guinea.

This year, 2015 in particular, is a defining year for our country continues to chart our future.

This year of course we will celebrate 40 years of independence, and this is significant as we reflect upon our past and as we implement our plans for the years ahead.

It is fitting that this milestone year for us, is a year when the reforms that we have been implementing as a Government over the past 3 years can be seen to be taking root.

We are now more than halfway through the current Parliamentary term and year our Government is taking stock of progress we took to the elections in 2012.

The core policy measures that we announced in 2012 were simple in their design but they are very effective in enhancing the lives of our people.

 

We are seeing our substantially increased investment in Education at all levels including fee free education policy gaining acceptance through out the country.

Now we see 2 million children in school, which is nearly double the number from when we introduced the policy.

This increase has placed pressure on student-to-teacher ratios and number of

classrooms and other infrastructure in schools throughout the country. The Government has increased investment in teacher training facilities and is constructing additional educational infrastructure.

In the area of healthcare, our Government has increase spending to unprecedented levels as we deliver on our commitment of free universal healthcare.

Expenditure on healthcare in the 2015 budget was close to two billion Kina. We are seeing realistic delivery of health services both to urban and rural communities.

One of our other priorities was to improving law and order in our country. This is essential for us to move Papua New Guinea to the next level of development and prosperity.

The Government is spending considerable resources to modernise and better equip our police, judiciary and corrective services.

Australia is providing well-received support in this area – particularly with the partnership program we have with the Australian Federal Police.

We would like to take this program to the next level to extend placement of our police personnel not on under a training arrangement, but in line positions within our own police force rather than an advisory role.

The fourth pillar of our policy program is revitalizing infrastructure development in our country. Our Government is investing substantial amounts of money in rebuilding neglected infrastructure in our country.

We are building new roads, bridges, airports and seaports, and the public buildings that are required to deliver public services.

Papua New Guineans are seeing changes and they are noticing that change.

Importantly, we are doing this not only in the larger urban areas, but also in remote rural areas.

We are, for example, building communications towers in remote areas so that we can have at least village-based access to the mobile telephones and the Internet services.

Our increased budgetary allocation to the districts and provinces are starting to produce positive outcomes both in terms of delivery of government services and infrastructure development.

Communities that did not see presence of and government in the past 40 years are seeing government today.

 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We also recognise the important leadership role that Papua New Guinea has in the Pacific Island communities.

It is important that we use our experience, as the biggest Pacific country, to provide linkages and support our Brothers and Sisters in the region.

Papua New Guinea is now providing direct support to our regional partners in

strengthening their economies, building infrastructure and investing in increased trade.

We have allocated 300 million Kina over five years and we are investing in these nations.

We have targeted areas like climate change, infrastructure and governance issues, and recently in Fiji we invested heavily in the conduct of the elections.

We have invested in infrastructure in Vanuatu, we given budget support to the Solomon Islands.

Papua New Guinea is engaging through multilateral forums to bring about change and reform in our region.

Two of the most important being the Pacific Islands forum as a means for direct regional engagement, and APEC to link the Pacific Islands to the broader Asia-Pacific community.

The Pacific Islands Forum remains the premier process for advancing Pacific Island economic development and cultural exchange – it has been for 43 years and it will continue to do so for decades to come.

The Forum not only provides an important opportunity for Island nations to share views, but through the Post Forum Dialogue we are able to engage as a group with important development partners including China, Japan, the United States and the European Union.

We are all aware of ongoing background discussion relating to membership of the Pacific Islands’ Forum.

As far as Papua New Guinea is concerned there will is no requirement for a change in the structure of the membership.

As incoming Chair of the Pacific Islands Forum, I am inviting the Leaders of all Member States to attend our meeting in September in Papua New Guinea.

The only way to play a part in the evolution of the Pacific Islands Forum – that is to take your seat at the table and speak direct to fellow leaders.

As the Chair, we will lead a comprehensive agenda that will seek to better unite businesses, increase labour mobility, improving defences against climate change and strengthen cultural and trade relations within in our region.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

This year will also brings about a great opportunity to engage the Melanesian people of Indonesia with the Pacific Islands countries – this process is beginning with the Melanesian Spearhead Group.

This is one of the most sensitive issues in our region today – and Papua New Guinea is engaging in a constructive manner with our friends in Indonesia – with respect and a shared sense of purpose.

This week, President Joko Widodo and I had the opportunity to share our views on issues relating to the Indonesian provinces of Papua and West Papua.

Discussion of these sensitive matters between our two countries is not new – but we are doing so with more frankness.

This is not a discussion about sovereignty – but is about a shared desire to ensure that there peace, stability and development for Melanesian people in Papua and West Papua.

In our meeting this week, Papua New Guinea has pledged its support for Indonesia to apply for an associate membership of MSG.

This application is now in the hands of our Melanesian nations to decide.

If this application is accepted, MSG will welcome a delegation agreed by the Governors of the five Melanesian provinces in Indonesia to attend Melanesian Spearhead Group meetings.

This will be historic and a new level of engagement and opportunity for economic and cultural relations with more than 11 million Melanesians in Indonesia.

Together with the rest MSG countries, Melanesian people exceed the total population of Australia. This is not insignificant population and their welfare and their wellbeing is of paramount importance to Papua New Guinea.

2015 is a significant year for Papua New Guinea’s engagement, in both an economic and cultural context, and it is part of a very busy events schedule for the nation.

Most notable in the coming months we will be hosting the 15th Pacific Games in Port Moresby this July.

We are anticipating that this will be the most memorable in the history of the Pacific Games.

Hosting the Games has provided an opportunity to focus on a good deal of the infrastructure upgrade that is underway in Port Moresby and throughout the country.

We have included almost 2.5 billion Kina worth of road infrastructure development all throughout the nation today.

More major sporting events are planned for Papua New Guinea in the coming years, a highlight of which is the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup in 2016.

Teams from 16 countries will be take part in the tournament that will take place in stadiums in Lae, Kokopo and Port Moresby.

The largest of the upcoming events is the APEC meeting that will take place in 2018.

The APEC Leaders’ Summit is scheduled to held in Port Moresby on 17-18 November in 2018.

Hosting APEC is an enormous logistical and policy challenge, with an anticipated 200 APEC related meetings due to take place in Papua New Guinea before the summit.

Planning has been underway for some time and we are on track.

At the policy level, the APEC Secretariat is coordinated out of the Department of Prime Minister and National Executive Council.

In terms of logistics, Parliament approved the creation of an APEC Coordination Authority that is now in place.

The Authority is laying the foundations for logistical requirements and related budget projections to deliver an effective APEC year.

We are also working in consultation with our partners, especially Australia, in security related capacity building and training which will make sure we have a very successful APEC meeting.

Papua New Guinea also continues to strengthen relations and partnerships with APEC members at a bilateral level.

This is particularly the case with the Peoples’ Republic of China and Japan – as major players in the global economy and key destination for Papua New Guinean exports including LNG.

Ladies and Gentlemen, An issue that been the subject of discussion relates to the operation and future of the Regional Processing Centre.

Papua New Guinea has played an important part in stemming people smuggling in our region. This dangerous trade has cost countless lives lost at sea.

We are now facilitating the processing of refugee applications. To date, 129 applicants have been deemed to be genuine refugees and are being offered the opportunity to live in Papua New Guinea.

Over 400 refugees have voluntarily left Papua New Guinea.

There has been criticism at the time taken to transition refugees from Manus to their new lives is taking too long.

We have an obligation to explain this to Papua New Guineans, and to the refugees, as they make this transition so the can be included in our communities.

There has been so much negative news about the Asylum Seekers in Australian, which is then rebroadcast in Papua New Guinea, that there is concern about refugees coming to live in our communities.

Our Government has the job of explaining that to our people and the genuine refugees will be welcomed by our people in their respective communities.

We are currently undertaking extensive public awareness and stakeholder engagement in areas where refugees will be resettled.

This is done to remove the stigma that has been established.

It is also important that refugees are taught our language and our cultural so that they are aware of their obligations when they live within our communities.

We are confident that these refugees will bring skills and experience that will be of value to our nation building, will be resettling them very soon.

Ladies and Gentlemen, In September we will celebrate four decades of Independence in Papua New Guinea.

Our bilateral relationship with Australia is in very good shape, probably in better shape and more harmonious than at any time since Independence.

We are told that the Australian Government will reduce development assistance to Papua New Guinea by around 5% in the 2015-16 Australian budget. And, we do understand the budgetary constraints faced by Australia, and we will sit down and work with the Australian Government to reprioritise the development program However, in Australian budget documents we were shocked to learn that the Australian Government plans to establish a diplomatic post on Bougainville.

As we all know, Bougainville is an integral part of Papua New Guinea and there are clear historical sensitivities around Bougainville that must be appreciated.

Especially the sensitivities that are on Bougainville when there is an election going on.

I want to say that there has been no consultation on this proposal and there is no agreement to proceed.

As we respect territorial integrity of others, we expect other to respect us as well.

Next week I will be speaking at the annual gathering of Papua New Guinean and  Australian business councils in Lae.

I will be using that opportunity to make suggestions on how we can address some of our bilateral relationship issues, but more importantly on strengthen our business, investment and trade relationships.

In summary, our wide ranging relationship is in good shape……but it must never be taken for granted, especially as we celebrate four decades of what has been a harmonious, and I believe mutually beneficial, association.

Ladies and Gentlemen, The future of Papua New Guinea is very bright, there is great expectation on the part of our people, and from the international community.

We are moving on from the past and embracing the opportunities of the future.

Through hard work and determination, we will continue to build a strong Papua New Guinea.

I thank you for your partnership, and I thank your for your attendance today and thank you for your interest in the development of our nation.

 

Thank you.

Source: https://www.lowyinstitute.org

Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Peter O’Neill unhappy at Australian move over Bougainville

Papua New Guinean Prime Minister Peter O’Neill has sharply criticised Australia for planning to set up a diplomatic post in PNG’s breakaway province of Bougainville without consulting his government.

But Foreign Minister Julie Bishop insists Australia’s high commissioner did provide notice of the move.

Mr O’Neill claimed PNG had no advance warning of the decision, which was tucked into the detail of this week’s federal budget papers.

“It’s not something that we want to wake up one morning and read in the papers,” he said on Thursday after delivering an address to the Lowy Institute in Sydney.

“There has been no understanding about the sensitivities on the ground, especially with the [local] elections that are going on there now.”

Bougainville was the scene of a bloody civil war between secessionist forces and the PNG Defence Force in the early 1990s, with an uneasy peace deal delivering the island semi-autonomous status.

Bougainvilleans have been promised a referendum on full independence sometime in the next five years. But Mr O’Neill said PNG still viewed the large, resource-rich island as “an integral part of Papua New Guinea”.

“As we respect the territorial integrity of others, we expect others to respect ours,” he said, adding that Port Moresby had not agreed to Canberra’s plan.

Ms Bishop said Australia had a “significant and growing development program in the Autonomous Region of Bougainville” and that she had discussed a second post in PNG during her visit there last December.

Mr O’Neill also played down criticism that his government had been slow to resettle refugees from the Australian-run detention facility at Manus Island.

Labor’s immigration spokesman Richard Marles​ recently labelled the failure to resettle any refugees beyond Manus a “disgrace” but Mr O’Neill said more than 130 applicants had been deemed genuine and would be resettled “very very soon”.

He said “negative news” about asylum seekers in Australia had been rebroadcast in PNG, requiring the government to undertake an “extensive public awareness” campaign to “remove the stigma” surrounding the issue.

“It is also important that we teach the refugees our languages, our culture, so that they are aware of their obligations when they live within our communities,” he argued.

“We are confident that these refugees will bring skills and experience that will be of value to our nation building.”

Asked if that process might take years, he responded that it would take “weeks to months”.

Challenged about his controversial decision last year to cease funding PNG’s highly effective anti-corruption unit known as Task Force Sweep, Mr O’Neill said its work would be replaced by a new Independent Commission Against Corruption, yet to be established.

Overall, Mr O’Neill said relations with Australia were as good as they had been since independence was granted by Canberra 40 years ago.

PNG Prime Minister Peter O’Neill says the “welfare and wellbeing” of Melanesians, including the more than 11 million Melanesian inhabitants of Indonesia, is of “paramount importance to Papua New Guinea”.

But he says he is “engaging in a constructive manner” with Indonesia on the touchy subject of West Papua and Papua, formerly known as Irian Jaya.

He told the Lowy Institute he had discussed the issue with “frankness” in a recent meeting with Indonesian president Joko “Jokowi” Widodo​ and that it “continues to be one of the most sensitive issues in our … relations today”.

The discussion was not about sovereignty, he added, but about the “shared desire to ensure that there is peace, stability and development for Melanesian people in Papua and West Papua”.

Mr O’Neill said PNG would support Indonesia being granted associate membership of the Melanesian Spearhead Group, through a delegation of governors of the five Melanesian provinces of Indonesia.

But proponents of West Papuan independence are critical of the plan.

Mr O’Neill said “we would love to have a united voice [inside the MSG] for all of West Papua but unfortunately there are many groupings. The only legitimate people who represent West Papua today are the elected leaders and they are the governors of those provinces.”

He said currently PNG had “no visibility of what is happening in West Papua” and this would be a “major step by Indonesia to allow this process”.

Source: https://www.smh.com.au/

West Papua issue stirs during Jokowi’s PNG visit

The thorny issue of West Papua has stirred controversy during a state visit by Indonesia’s President, Joko Widodo, to Papua New Guinea.

Indonesia's Papua region: the provinces of West Papua and Papua

Indonesia’s Papua region: the provinces of West Papua and Papua Photo: RNZ

Mr Widodo left Port Moresby today after a two-day visit which saw allegations of media gagging and the arbitrary arrest of protesting West Papuan independence activists.

Joko Widodo’s plane touched down in Port Moresby on Monday, greeted by a 21-gun salute and military guard of honour. But outside the airport, a group was protesting Indonesian rule in the western half of New Guinea.

That protest was led by the PNG Union for a Free West Papua. Its general secretary, David Dom Kua, said police broke up the protest just before Mr Widodo touched down, and that he and six others were detained for several hours.

The group was later released without charge yet Mr Kua said their detention was illegal and an attempt to hide them from the visiting President.

“We are not in Indonesia, we are in Papua New Guinea,” he said. “This is our own country, we are stepping on our own soil and our own laws and so if there is any political interference or influence whatsoever, how can the police or our government think they can do what the Indonesian government has been doing?”

Gary Juffa, PNG

Gary Juffa, PNG Photo: Supplied

The Oro Governor and MP, Gary Juffa, explained that the PNG Union for a Free West Papua had obtained a court order allowing them to protest, but they were detained arbitrarily. He felt Waigani had been quick to try and please Jakarta by clamping down on peaceful protest.

“We can’t allow Indonesia to extend their authoritarian rule into Papua New Guinea which is what seems to be happening,” said Governor Juffa.

“In instances when Indonesians visit or when Indonesian officials are here then there’s a gag on the media, there’s all the military persons, the people are controlled, it’s as if we are a province of Indonesia.”

The independence aspiration of West Papuans remains a sensitive issue for Indonesia, and one that Papua New Guinea governments have stayed silent on for many years. However growing public concern about reported rights abuses across the border and a geopolitical storm over a West Papuan move for greater regional representation have ensured the PNG government cannot ignore the issue.

A major West Papuan representative organisation is currently applying for membership of the regional Melanesian Spearhead Group, and appears to have the backing of Vanuatu and New Caledonia’s FLNKS. It remains to be seen where Solomon Islands and the MSG’s two biggest members, PNG and Fiji, stand on the matter.

The United Liberation Movement for West Papua’s application will be the special focus of an MSG members’ meeting next week, before a possible decision on the bid at the leaders’ summit in Honiara in July. Mr Widodo’s visit came as Indonesia’s diplomatic overtures to Melanesian countries reached top levels, prompting the ULM to argue that the visit was to try and pressure PNG to not support the West Papuan MSG bid.

PNG PM Peter O'Neil and Indonesia president Joko Widodo Photo: supplied
PNG PM Peter O’Neil and Indonesia president Joko Widodo Photo: supplied

But at a state dinner for Mr Widodo, Prime Minister Peter O’Neill said he wants to welcome Melanesian brothers and sisters from West Papua to the MSG, but it must be done with endorsement from Jakarta.

RNZI’s correspondent in Port Moresby, Todagia Kelola, said the topic was off-limits to media at a breakfast on Tuesday, where Mr Widodo spoke about strengthening economic ties between the two countries and only slightly alluded to West Papua.

“He said the visit in Papua New Guinea provides an opportunity to strengthen ties in both countries. And despite not commenting on the West Papua issue Mr Widodo seeks to ensure that closer relations is far more important for the benefit for the people in Indonesia especially the 11 million melanesians in Indonesia.”

Before leaving the country, the leaders of both countries signed new agreements to cooperate in the development of petroleum and energy resources and to prevent transnational crime. At the airport ahead of his departure, however, was another group of West Papua activists burning the Indonesian flag.

Event

In a speech on February 5th, the prime minister of Papua New Guinea (PNG), Peter O’Neill, said that he wants to speak out about human rights in the Indonesian provinces of Papua and West Papua.

Analysis

Mr O’Neill broke with his government’s usual policy of recognition of Indonesian sovereignty over the provinces of Papua and West Papua and silence over the alleged human rights abuses committed there. In comments during a speech outlining his government’s core policies at the PNG Leaders’ Summit, Mr O’Neill said “Sometimes we forget our own families, our own brothers, especially those in West Papua. I think, as a country, the time has come for us to speak about the oppression of our people there.” He vowed to open and lead mature discussions with Indonesia over the issue.

His statement coincided with the United Liberation Movement of West Papua (ULWP) announcing that it was submitting an application for full membership of the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG, an umbrella group of countries with Melanesian populations, as well as representatives of New Caledonia’s Melanesian population). With the exception of Vanuatu, Pacific governments have been slow to speak out about human rights abuses in Papua and West Papua.

Beyond a handful of legislators, PNG has been reluctant to talk about human rights abuses in West Papua, or to speak out on behalf of West Papuan separatists. However, the issue has become more prominent in recent years, due in part to the rise of social media highlighting alleged Indonesian abuses. There have also been a number of incidents along the 760‑km border between PNG and the province of Papua. In April and May last year the Indonesian military reportedly fired on PNG border patrols, prompting the foreign minister, Rimbink Pato, to summon the Indonesian ambassador for an explanation.

In a softening of PNG’s stance, Mr Pato stated on February 9th that he had contacted the Indonesian foreign minister and had reassured him that there had been no change in PNG’s recognition of Indonesian sovereignty and that ULWP’s application to the MSG would be carried out in consultation with Indonesia.

Impact on the forecast

Mr O’Neill’s vow to speak out on West Papua will win him support domestically and is likely to raise the profile of the West Papua issue. However, it may threaten relations with his country’s nearest neighbour.

Source: http://country.eiu.com/

The spokesperson for the global Free West Papua Campaign claims up to 1000 police and military deployed to the Timika region in West Papua have tortured people in the area.

In a statement, Benny Wenda says up to 116 people living in the region surrounding the Freeport McMoran mine have been tortured and detained since the deployment.

The Freeport McMoran mine near Grasberg, West Papua
The Freeport McMoran mine near Grasberg, West Papua Photo: AFP

The deployment was in response to the killing of two police officers in Utikini village last week, in which 13 people have been arrested.

Attached to the statement are pictures of dozens of people sitting in front of a house with their hands tied behind their banks, surrounded by armed plain clothed police officers, although the picture has not been verified.

Mr Wenda says houses have been burnt down after independence banners were found inside.

He says he believes the deployment is a deliberate attempt to divert public attention away from the killing of 5 schoolboys in Paniai last month

PNG to integrate West Papua refugees

Papua New Guinea has committed to integrating Papuans who fled across the border from Indonesia.

The PNG foreign minister, Rimbink Pato, says West Papuan refugees will be issued a PNG passport or certificate of identity.

Papua New Guinea Foreign Minister Rimbink Pato. Photo: RNZI / Johnny Blades
Papua New Guinea Foreign Minister Rimbink Pato. Photo: RNZI / Johnny Blades

Mr Pato says the process will happen over the next 12 months and will be assisted by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

He says most West Papua refugees have already met the requirements for PNG citizenship and the government will waive the application fees.

Tens of thousands of West Papuans have fled the Indonesian-controlled provinces bordering PNG, with many having lived in makeshift refugee camps for decades.

Mr Pato says those asylum seekers held by Australia in its Manus detention centre who get refugee status will be given training in English, Tok Pisin and PNG culture.

He says non-refugees will be required to leave PNG either voluntarily or through deportation.

The National Committee for West Papua, the KNPB, is saying that another seven of its activists were captured by the Indonesian military on Friday.

This follows the arrest of six KNPB activists on Thursday, who were detained in the provincial capital, Jayapura for distributing leaflets calling on West Papuans to boycott the Indonesian presidential election on the 9th of July.

According to reports, the seven activists were captured by soldiers in the Timika region and tortured and beaten before being handed over to police.

The KNPB says their whereabouts remain unknown.

Copyright © 2014, Radio New Zealand

RadioNZ – Melanesian Spearhead Group leaders say they want to take a more proactive approach alongside Indonesia to help address the development needs of West Papuans.

The leaders have just concluded their summit in Port Moresby where issues regarding the indigenous Melanesians of Indonesia’s Papua region featured prominently on the agenda.

According to the summit’s communiqué, the MSG seeks greater awareness on the situation in Indonesia’s Papua and West Papua provinces in regard to special autonomy arrangements and their impact on the local population.

Elsewhere the leaders note the progress on greater autonomy in Papua and a recent announcement by the President of Indonesia to withdraw the military from Papua region.

However the MSG appears to have brushed off a formal application bid by the West Papua National Coalition for Liberation for membership in the MSG.

The coalition lodged its application over a year ago, and submitted documents of support from over seventy representative groups in Indonesia’s Papua region.

Documents of support for the West Papua National Coalition for Liberation
Documents of support for the West Papua National Coalition for Liberation Photo: RNZI

The MSG had postponed its decision on the application pending the report from January’s MSG Foreign Ministers fact-finding mission to Papua.

Vanuatu boycotted that trip because it was of the view that the mission’s programme would not allow the MSG to obtain credible information to fulfil the MSG Leaders mandate, around making a decision on the membership bid.

The mission visited Papua region for less than a day.

The MSG leaders who attended this week’s summit were Solomon Islands Prime Minister Gordon Darcy Lilo, his Vanuatu counterpart Joe Natuman, PNG’s Peter O’Neill and the current MSG chair, Victor Tutugoro, representing the FLNKS of New Caledonia.

While the communique didn’t include a formal decision on the Coalition’s membership bid, Mr O’Neill, earlier indicated that West Papuans would need to re-apply for membership as an “inclusive and united” group.

Mr O’Neill says the group would also have to consult with Jakarta.

Indonesia has observer status at the MSG.

Among other points of the communiqué, the MSG endorses more regular meetings with Jakarta on bilateral cooperation with specific focus on social and economic development and empowerment for West Papuans.

WATI TALEBULA, Suva, FIJI Sun

The Methodist Church in Fiji wore special ribbons as a sign of their solidarity for West Papua yesterday.

The church’s Secretary for Communication and Overseas Mission Reverend James Bhagwan said the red and black ribbons were distributed by the Pacific Conference of Churches and the Pacific Network for Globalisation.

“The Methodist Church in Fiji is a committed member of both the Pacific Conference of Churches and the Fiji Council of Churches. As such we support the call to end human rights abuses in Tanah Papua, for their social, economic and political empowerment and for self-determination,”

Reverend Bhagwan said.

“We stand in solidarity with our brothers, sisters and children of Tanah Papua. We have received their cry and we will echo it and speak this truth to power.”

Reverend Bhagwan said they were ready to work and bring an end to their sufferings.

“We affirm the work of the Pacific Conference of Churches on the West Papua issue,” he said.

“We look forward to working in partnership with them to enable self-determination in its fullest sense.”

Feedback: wati.talebula@fijisun.com.fj