Wenda welcomes MSG call for UN visit and fights on for full membership

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Indonesian associate membership of MSG
Indonesian associate membership of MSG . . . status challenged by Youngsolwara Pacific over lack of transparency about criteria. Image: YSP

Asia Pacific Report

In spite of again being denied full membership of the Melanesian Spearhead Group, the United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP) has welcomed the call from the MSG Leaders’ Summit in Port Vila last week for Indonesia to allow the long-awaited visit of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to West Papua.

“I hope that the MSG chair will honour the commitment to write to Indonesia as a matter of urgency, as every day that international intervention is delayed sees more West Papuans suffer and more Melanesian blood spilt,” ULMWP president Benny Wenda declared.

“Even in the run up to the MSG summit, with the eyes of the Pacific region on human rights in West Papua, Indonesia brutally cracked down on peaceful rallies in favour of ULMWP full membership, arresting dozens and killing innocent civilians,” he said in a statement.

As an associate member of the MSG, Indonesia must respect the chair’s demand, Wenda said.

“If they continue to deny the UN access, they will be in violation of the unified will of the Melanesian region.

“As the leaders’ communique stated, the UN visit must occur this year in order for the commissioner’s report to be put before the next MSG summit in 2024.”

Wenda said he also welcomed the MSG’s commitment that it would write to the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) chair to ensure that the UN visit was undertaken.

‘Guarantee UN visit’
“The PIF must honour this call and do all they can to guarantee a UN visit,” he said.

United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP) interim chair Benny Wenda being interviewed by Vanuatu Television
United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP) interim chair Benny Wenda being interviewed by Vanuatu Television during MACFEST2023.

“We must remember that the UN visit has already been demanded by over 85 states, including all Melanesian states as members of PIF, and the 79 members of the Organisation of African, Caribbean, and Pacific States.”

Wenda said that in 2019, Pacific leaders described West Papua as a “festering human rights sore” and called for UN intervention as soon as possible.

“Since then, we have seen 100,000 West Papuans displaced by Indonesian military operations, villages depopulated and burned, and massacres in Wamena, Timika and elsewhere.

“And yet Indonesia has come no closer to allowing the United Nations access. Mere words are clearly not enough: the MSG Leaders’ Summit must be the trigger for international pressure of such overwhelming force that Indonesia has no choice, but to allow a UN visit.

“Although we are disappointed to have been denied full membership on this occasion, our spirit is strong and our commitment to returning home to our Melanesian family is undiminished.

“We are not safe with Indonesia, and will only find security by standing together with our Pacific brothers and sisters.

“Full membership is our birthright: culturally, linguistically, ethnically, and in our values, we are undeniably and proudly Melanesian.”

Youngsolwara Pacific criticises MSG
Meanwhile, the Youngsolwara Pacific movement has made a series of critical statements about the MSG communique, including deploring the fact that the leaders’ summit was not the place to discuss human rights violations and reminded the leaders of the “founding vision”.

They called on the MSG Secretariat to “set terms, that should Indonesia fail to allow and respect the visits of an independent fact-finding mission by PIF, and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, then Indonesia must be BANNED from the MSG.”

They also demanded “clarity on the criteria for associate members and their respective engagement”.

Indonesia is the only associate member of the MSG while the ULMWP has observer status.

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