West Papua’s customary region leaders back full MSG membership

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A group of Papuan women and children wave Melanesian state flags
A group of Papuan women and children wave Melanesian state flags as they declare their support for full MSG membership and plead for a "safe West Papua". Image: ULMWP

Asia Pacific Report

Seven executives representing all the customary regions of West Papua have declared their support for the United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP) gaining full membership of the Melanesian Spearhead Group.

The executives are of the ULMWP ‘provisional government’ in the Indonesian-ruled Melanesian region.

The ULMWP declared this political support in a statement this week in advance of the forthcoming MSG summit in Port Vila, Vanuatu.

ULMWP’s executive, legislative and judicial councils had earlier made a declaration in support of full membership in Jayapura on 4 June 2023.

ULMWP president Benny Wenda had separately announced his support for MSG full membership, saying “our agenda is now totally focused on consolidating support for full membership”.

According to the statement, the whole of the West Papuan liberation movement stood united behind the shared goal of MSG full membership.

The seven customary regions of West Papua and the executives representing them are: Anim-Ha Region – Mathias Tambai; Bomberay Region – Erik Fimbay; Domberay Region – Markus Yenu; Lapago Region – Herman Kossay; Mamta/Tabi Region – Beny Yantewo; Meepago Region – Habel Nawipa; Saireri Region – Edison Kendi.

While MSG membership comprises the Melanesian states of Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu, there is a long-established precedent in a political grouping, the Kanak and Soclalist National Liberation Front (FLNKS), representing New Caledonia as a full member.

19 arrested
Meanwhile, the human rights watchdog Tapol reports that the Indonesian government “continues to tread on the right to peaceful free expression in West Papua”.

“This can be seen from arrests and treason charges against three members of the peaceful independence campaign group, the National Committee for West Papua (Komite Nasional Papua Barat, KNPB), in Tambrauw Regency, Southwest Papua province,” the agency said in a statement.

The arrests took place on 9 June 2023, in Sarwom village, where 19 people were taken into custody.

Those arrested were a mixture of members of the coordinating body for the KNPB from neighbouring Maybrat regency, as well as local members.

The head of West Papua area police claimed that those arrested had been proclaiming the founding of the KNPB in Tambrauw, and calling for the independence of West Papua from Indonesia.

Police also claimed that the group put up a fight, being arrested with TNI support.

However, activist groups stated that they were actually only eating food and drinking coffee together without disturbing anybody in the local area, when the police arrived with weapons.

Activist groups also fiercely denied the “police insinuation” that the KNPB had links to the West Papua National Liberation Army – Free Papua Movement (Tentara Pembebasan Nasional Papua Barat – Organisasi Papua Merdeka (TPNPB-OPM)).

West Papua's seven customary regions
West Papua’s seven customary regions . . . united behind Papuan full membership of the MSG. Image: Tabloid Jubi
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