Melanesian Spearhead Group summit postponed – West Papua uncertain

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A KNPB rally in support of full membership for West Papua in the Melanesian Spearhead Group
A KNPB (West Papua National Committee) rally in support of full membership for West Papua in the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) in Jayapura last week. Image: KNPB

By Anita Roberts in Port Vila

The Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) Leaders Summit proposed to be held from yesterday until July 21 has been postponed to another date, which is yet to be confirmed.

This was confirmed by Foreign Affairs Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Jotham Napat.

He said the MSG Foreign Affairs Ministers Meeting had last month proposed this date pending confirmation from each member country.

Napat said the government of Solomon Islands noted there was a clash with the sitting of Parliament and asked for the meeting to be rescheduled.

“Vanuatu’s Prime Minister [Ishmael Kalsakau] as Chair of the MSG will write to the members for them to reschedule the meeting on another date where every leaders are available to complete their issues,” he told the Vanuatu Daily Post.

“For Vanuatu, July is already full of activities. The President of France is arriving soon. We are looking at organising the meeting in August.”

Asked to confirm whether the endorsement of the United Liberation Movement for West Papua (UMLWP) as a full member of MSG was going to be on the agenda at this Leaders’ Meeting, Napat replied that this had not been discussed at the MSG Foreign Affairs Minister Meeting.

Budget only discussed
He explained that the Foreign Affairs Minister Meeting discussed only the budget and its approval.

However, the application for UMLWP full membership would be discussed in a retreat by the MSG Prime Ministers before any adoption.

Vanuatu has been strongly supporting this agenda.

The Jakarta Globe reported that Foreign Affairs Minister Napat had discussed the possibility of Vanuatu opening an embassy in Indonesia with his Indonesian counterpart during his visit there last month.

He said he told his counterpart about Vanuatu’s push for West Papua to be part of MSG.

“Indonesia has been very frank about this matter. They consider West Papua as part [of Indonesia] and they told us that we [Vanuatu] are undermining their sovereignty.

“This does not stop us to keep pushing this agenda to the MSG Leaders to decide on it. It’s a sensitive issue that needs to be agreed by all leaders.

“Every decision is to be taken by consensus, it will be very difficult if some of the leaders are reluctant to support the agenda,” he said.

Indonesia has been providing scholarships for Papua New Guineans and Fijians to study abroad.

Vanuatu’s push for West Papua
Asked if such assistance could jeopardise Vanuatu’s push for West Papua, Minister Napat said: “Vanuatu is a sovereign country and it must decide on its own destiny and future.

“It is the same for PNG, it has its own sovereign right.

“Somewhere we have to find what is our interest, whether we continue pursuing the idea or we decide on a different path but continue advocate.

“You cannot be shouting from outside. You have to sit at the roundtable with them and talk so that they can hear you.

“It’s an interest for Vanuatu to pursue the matter, but when it comes to MSG its a collective decision.”

Anita Roberts is a Vanuatu Daily Post reporter. Republished with permission.

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