15 January 2014

Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) Ministers 'visit' West Papua

Pacific Islands News Association

A delegation of Foreign Ministers of the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) visiting the troubled province of Papua this date were met and escorted under heavy guard by the Joint Indonesian Military (TNI) and Indonesian Police (POLRI).

Even peaceful demonstrations were banned by the Police. Around 46 indigenous Papuan activists were arrested in Jayapura for attempting to demonstrate, including well known figures Markus Haluk and Yusak Pakage. All are believed to have been released. 

The MSG delegation’s visit is in response to an invitation from Indonesia in mid 2013 prompted by the MSG 19th Summit’s consideration of an application for membership by Papua in June 2013.

An application which caused significant debate within the Summit at the time and since and which has seen ceaseless efforts during the last 6 months by Indonesia to undermine the application.

Members of the Indigenous Papuan community were not given even the slightest space to be able to access let alone meet with members of the MSG Delegation, who were heavily guarded every moment of their time in Papua. 

The delegation met only with Government Officials from the Provincial level of Government. The Indonesian Government’s attitude was that they invited the MSG delegation so it was the Government that would meet with them.

Students responded by blockading the main road leading from Jayapura city to the airport by burning tyres on the road. As there was no other road route to escort the MSG delegation back to the airport so they were taken instead by Helicopter from the Military Headquarters.

“By these means Indonesia has isolated Papua yet again. The Government has silenced the indigenous population of Papua and closed down any possible space for democracy. The MSG delegation wanted to visit Papua to see the situation for themselves first-hand yet they have not been able to access the people.

“The MSG Delegation was escorted by the Indonesian Armed Forces as if indigenous Papuans wanted to kill their fellow Melanesian brothers and sisters. Indigenous Papuans know and live by what is required by their culture and their religion and it’s absolutely absurd to even consider that they would harm or make things difficult for their Melanesian brothers and sisters visiting Papua. The culture of terrorists in this region is the culture of others and not of Papuans,” a statement said.

“The events of this date in Papua tell the world that the State of Indonesia is still hiding something in Papua from the rest of the world. That something is the humanitarian evil that is being committed by the State of Indonesia against Indigenous Papuans. The events of this date in Papua also tell the world that the State of Indonesia is not yet mature in its practice of democracy.”

Yan Ciristian Warinusy, a human rights activist in Papua, said the visit was in line with the preliminary agenda of the MSG summit held in June 2013 in Noumea, Kanaky-New Caledonia.

“This is an important matter, a prerequisite for them to determine how they will consider the membership of Papua into the MSG membership,” he said, “as based on the application by the West Papua National Coalition for Liberation (WPNCL).”.



Reports from Indonesia's Papua region say more than 40 West Papuans were arrested during the visit by the Melanesian Spearhead Group in Jayapura.

The MSG Foreign Ministers made a fleeting visit to the Papua provincial capital and has brief meetings with the Governor and the Papua regional legislature.

However, Tabloid Jubi reports that dozens of activists were arrested by Indonesian police outside the legislature for demonstrating against the lack of access that the West Papuans have been granted to the MSG.

This comes after Vanuatu's government withdrew from the mission, saying it felt Indonesia was not allowing the foreign ministers access to the people who the MSG sought to meet.

The visit is part of an effort to vet a formal bid for MSG membership by the West Papua National Coalition for Liberation.

The head of the MSG delegation, Fiji's foreign minister Ratu Inoke Kubuabola, has rebuffed the separatists' aspirations, saying the ministers fully respect Indonesia's sovereignty and territorial integrity and further recognise that West Papua is an integral part of Indonesia.



Vanuatu withdraws from MSG mission to Indonesia,
West Papua

The Vanuatu government has withdrawn from a Melanesian Spearhead Group Foreign Ministers delegation to Indonesia to discuss and visit West Papua this week.

The delegation, which is led by Fiji, is visiting after a resolution by the MSG to engage more closely with Jakarta over issues raised about extensive alleged human rights abuses in Indonesia's Papua region.

A decision on the formal bid for MSG membership by the West Papua National Coalition for Liberation was deferred pending the outcome of this visit.

However, Vanuatu's Foreign Minister Edward Natapei has pulled out of the visit because his government believes its scheduled programme shows that the mission is highly unlikely to achieve what MSG leaders wanted it to achieve.

MSG leaders had wanted to meet various West Papuan groups, including some leaders of pro-independence movements, in order to enhance its understanding of the Papuans's membership bid.

Vanuatu is still part of the delegation by sending an envoy.