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Papua Bid for MSG Membership: Does PNG Play Double Standard?

Does PNG Play Double Standard In Papua Bid for MSG Membership?

by Petrus K. Farneubun
September 9, 2013

Although the 19th Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) Leaders' Summit in the Loyalty Islands of New Caledonia is over but critical question remained unanswered. Papuans remain unsatisfied with the PNG moves to seemingly unsupport for Papua members.

Papuans keep asking why PNG which is supposed to support Papuans member while in fact absence during the very important summit and turn its back to fully support Indonesia’s integrity.

As a matter of fact, PNG Minister for Foreign Affairs Rimbink Pato accompanying Prime Minister Peter O'Neill to Indonesia during MSG Foreign Ministers Meeting. Some Papuans accused PNG of playing double standard. Others claim that the absence of PNG’s Foreign minister sends a signal that PNG is no longer interested in the region. Is PNG playing double standard?

The answer to the question in fact leads to two related issues.

First, Policy of PNG. PNG government in series of meeting reiterates that its policy recognise West Papua as an integral part of Indonesia although raising concern about reports on human rights abuses in Papua. PNG position certainly has great impact on Papua MSG membership. As a the biggest country in the pacific island, PNG plays a key role in influencing other melanesia countries to support Papua future membership.

One should question if PNG’s policy support a territorial integrity, why it does not support West Papua to be full member as it does for Melanesian people of New Caledonia? Or why PNG does not support West Papua to be independent country as it does to New Caledonia to get independence from France which is one of the aims for the establishment of MSG by four independent countries in Melanesia-Fiji, Vanuatu, Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea twenty five years ago. Answering these question bring us to second issue.

Second, national interest is the key driving factor in determing the behaviour of a state. Any state will prioritise its national interest over other issues for its survival. This means that although a country supports an issue but when its interest will be at risk, the country tends to step away from the issue and prioritise the big one.

PNG has big interests with Indonesia. Indonesia and PNG has signed MoU that enable the two countries to cooperate in 11 key fields mostly on trade, investment, border controls and extradition. One of the key strategic interests in the exploration of gas,oil and mining.

The border between PNG-Indonesia has huge deposit of energy and mineral resources and PNG does not want to lose this huge economic benefit. For example, the trade volume between Indonesia-PNG during 2008-2011 shows a 35% increase where in 2011 it reached US 500 milion.

Therefore, the absence of PNG prime minister and foreign minister send signal that PNG is more interested in national interests than discussion over Papua bid for MSG membership, human rights issues in Papua or self-determination.

But public should ask why PNG take the decision to send delegation to Indonesia in the midst of MSG summit? Why not decision taken before the summit or after the summit?

As it is argued above, this sends signal that PNG is no longer interested in the issue of West Papua membership. As it is known, one of the recommendations of the summit that Papua membership will depend on results of MSG delegation visit held this year. This is a soft language of diplomacy which means the same as West Papua membership can not be accomodated. In other words, West Papua should not expect too much to have a seat in MSG forum.

It is a good observation following the MSG summit. Big members of MSG particularly Papua New Quinea, Fiji and Vanuatu response that West Papua issue is a sensitive matter where they have built good cooperation with Indonesia and have a lot of interests. But if it is sensitive, why it becomes a key agenda in the MSG and why not stop from the beginning the discussion to prevent mass expectations from Papuans.

In short, I believe that not only does PNG and other Melanesia countries play double standard but also they are no longer interested in talking about West Papua membership. The visit of delegation to Indonesia in this year is just a formal visit which does not affect the policy of PNG and perhaps other melanesia countries that West Papua is an integral part of Indonesia. As long as national interests is still maintained, West Papua hopes to be the full member will not be realized. But most Papuans expect the visit and hope the delegation can experience directly the ongoing situations in West Papua.

Mr O'Neill says PNG's policy is that West Papua is an integral part of Indonesia, but he looks forward to discussing the border issues. (

At a press conference in Port Moresby on Thursday, Mr O'Neill said he was concerned about reports of human rights abuses in West Papua, "but as I've said we have a policy that the issue of West Papua is an integral part of Indonesia". (

The MSG consists of Fiji, Papua New Guinea (PNG), the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu, as well as the Kanak and Socialist National Liberation Front (FLNKS), a pro-independence group from French-ruled New Caledonia.

SEAN DORNEY: Twenty-five years ago, the four independent countries in Melanesia - Fiji, Vanuatu, Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea - created a sub-regional organisation, the Melanesian Spearhead Group and one of its aims was to help the Melanesian people of New Caledonia, the Kanaks, get their independence from France. That has not happened yet but France did agree to allow the Kanak independence movement, the FLNKS (Le Front de libération nationale kanak et socialiste), to take up full membership of the Melanesian Group. (SEAN DORNEY: Twenty-five years ago, the four independent countries in Melanesia - Fiji, Vanuatu, Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea - created a sub-regional organisation, the Melanesian Spearhead Group and one of its aims was to help the Melanesian people of New Caledonia, the Kanaks, get their independence from France.

The current Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Edward Nipake Natapei also already publicly made his views clear on his stand on the issue. He told Daily Post two weeks ago that he will support West Papua to obtain MSG observer status in the upcoming June MSG Meeting in Noumea New Caledonia. (Vanuatu DailyPost (


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