By Pasifik in Honiara
Vanuatu Prime Minister Charlot Salwai says the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) has failed the people of West Papua.
The MSG last night deferred a decision on awarding full membership to the United Liberation Movement of West Papua (ULMWP) until a new meeting can be held in September.
The delay is meant to allow the MSG Secretariat to further develop its membership criteria.
“Vanuatu gravely regrets the deferral of the admission of ULMWP on the matter of criteria, a clear sign that officials and the secretariat fell short in carrying out their duties consistent with the fundamental founding principles of this eminent organisation for Melanesians,” said Prime Minister Salwai.
Vanuatu led the push to have the ULMWP’s status upgraded, despite stiff opposition from Indonesia which said such a move would undermine its national sovereignty.
“Vanuatu has always believed that other Melanesians are ready to be admitted into the MSG family,” said Salwai. “Vanuatu is adamant that being Melanesians, they should not be subject to any form of criteria.”
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The Prime Minister has offered to host Melanesian leaders in September to ensure the issue is finally tackled.
Reports of crackdown
Meantime, there have been widespread reports of West Papuans being arrested by Indonesian security forces as they gathered in anticipation of the MSG decision.
ULMWP secretary-general Octovianus Mote said 348 people were arrested for simply preparing to celebrate the outcome.
“Most of these West Papuans are youth and they just want to express their freedom and right to association…but many were arrested,” he says.
He said most arrests took place in Timika, Jayapura, Merauke, Nabire, and Yahukimo.