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Melanesian Spearhead Group Sells Out

Perspective

by Ed McWilliams

Foreign Ministers from the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG), with the important exception of Vanuatu, have betrayed their fellow Melanesians in West Papua.

Following meetings with senior Indonesian officials in Jakarta and an abbreviated visit to West Papua, the delegation capitulated to Indonesia's insistence that the neighboring Melanesian states acknowledge Indonesian control of West Papua. In its January 17 statement in Jakarta, the Foreign Ministers said:

"We respect Indonesian's sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity as well as the non-intervention principle into a country's domestic affairs as stated in the United Nation's Charter."

The language employed by the Melanesian diplomats rejects longstanding appeals by Papuans for respect for their the right of self determination, as recognized by numerous international covenants and agreements (including the United Nations Charter).

In voicing support for a so-called "non-intervention principle," the Melanesian diplomats also appear to have abandoned their right (and obligation) to speak out regarding the violation of human rights suffered by their fellow Melanesians in West Papua at the hands of Indonesia, notably from its security forces and intelligence operatives. As if to underscore their abandonment of any sense of obligation to support human rights, the Melanesian states have ignored the arrest of 47 Papuans who sought to meet with them during their brief visit to Jayapura (see report below).

The embarrassing capitulation by the Melanesian governments (minus Vanuatu) to Indonesian pressure is a demonstration of the power of realpolitik in international affairs. Papua New Guinea's long undefended border with Indonesia, Indonesian trade and development blandishments, perhaps inevitably, led to the Melanesian's cynical betrayal of the West Papuans.

The MSG's July 2013 summit meeting agreed to send a delegation to Indonesia and West Papua as part of the organization consideration of the application for full membership from the West Papua National Council for Liberation (WPNCL). The summit also "fully" supported "the inalienable rights of the people of West Papua towards self-determination" and endorsed raising concerns about "human rights violations and other forms of atrocities against the West Papuan people."

Given this disheartening turn of events, it is all the more interesting to consider the singular courage of Vanuatu which asserted its principled objection to the course chosen by its Melanesian Spearhead Group partners.

Vanuatu's Foreign Minister Edward Natapei told Radio Australia's Pacific Beat that he believed the agenda for the foreign ministers' meeting had been "hijacked" by Indonesia. He added that Vanuatu could only participate in the MSG delegation visit if the it was given the opportunity to meet Papuan civil society groups, pro-independence groups, church leaders and other groups concerned with human rights violations in West Papua. Such a stand is not only logical and fair, in the context of Indonesian pressure, it is courageous and noble.

It remains a painful reality that Papuans must look first to their own courage and secondly to the growing support they are earning among solidarity groups around the world as they seek to assert their rights, including the right to self-determination.

Update

Criticism of MSG Delegation Visit to West Papua

The Vanuatu Daily Post (January 29) underscored West Papuan disappointment with the results of the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) delegation (see above). Andy Ayamiseba of the West Papuan National Coalition for Liberation told the Vanuatu Daily Post that (MSG) fact-finding mission to Indonesia and West Papua fell far short of its mandate. "To me and the West Papuan National Coalition for Liberation (WPNCL), the so- called Melanesian Spearhead Group ministerial delegation visit to Indonesia and West Papua was a conflict of interest for Fiji and the Solomon Islands," Ayamiseba said.

"I condemn the spirit of the visit and I salute Vanuatu for her stand in boycotting the so-called MSG ministerial delegation mission, he added.

He accused Fiji and the Solomon Islands of using the delegation to promote economic ties with Indonesia.

On January 13, the Indonesian police arrested 47 Papuans who were gathered at the office of the Papuan Legislative Council (DPRD) to welcome and meet with the MSG delegation. Demonstrations also took place in Jakarta.

According to Papuans Behind Bars: "While protestors targeting the MSG delegation in Jayapura were manhandled, arrested and dispersed, protests targeting the delegation in Jakarta were not subject to these repressive tactics, despite getting far closer to members of the delegation than their colleagues in Papua."

The visit was originally designed to assess the plight of Papuans living in West Papua and to provide a basis for these Papuans application to join the MSG which was presented at the July MSG summit meeting (see July 2013 West Papua Report).

Local Media Reports Continued "Sweeping Operations" in Puncak Jaya

Step Magazine on January 28 reported that Brimob police burned three houses in Kelurik village in the Puncak Jaya region on January 26 as part of an ongoing "sweeping operation." The Brimob forces brutality has led many civilians in the area to flee into the forests.

Meanwhile, the local publication Jubi reported (January 27) security forces had also assaulted civilians in Dondobaga, also in the Puncak Jaya District. According to the report, Indonesian security forces attacked a GIDI church on January 26.

The Jubi report quotes Yunus Enumbi, a local OPM commander, who claimed that Brimob had "persecuted [the] church congregation and minister. "They were beaten up with rifle butts."

Simeon Daby, Chairn of the National Committee of West Papua, mountain region, called on the “Military/ Police, please do not blindly fight against ordinary people. Your enemy is clearly TPN/OPM and not the ordinary people or civil society.”

The Chief of Puncak Jaya Police, Marselin Sarimin and Pangdam, and Maj. Gen. Christian Zebua, Commander of Cenderawasih Military Area XVII, denied the report of violence at the church. The authorities did confirm that there had been two arrests of persons in the church.

The ongoing sweeps in Puncak Jaya have included casualties to Indonesian security forces. On January 24, First Private Sugianto was killed in a battle between TNI personnel and "armed civilian men." A few days later, Indonesian police reportedly arrested one of those involved in the shooting. National Police Chief General Sutarman said that the suspect was "strongly believed to be a member of the separatist Free Papua Movement (OPM)."

Earlier in January there were also violent incidents in the Mulia area of Puncak Jaya. Jubi reported on January 18 that a "string of shootings" and the theft of state security force arms. In the attack, unknown elements struck the Puncak Jaya Military Command Post in Kota Lama, Mulia. Two security force members were injured in the attack.

ENDS

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