West Papuan supporters ‘let down’ by MSG leaders, says advocate

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Vanuatu Minister for Climate Change Adaptation Ralph Regenvanu
Vanuatu Minister for Climate Change Adaptation Ralph Regenvanu . . . outspoken in support of the West Papuans. Image: Joe Collins/AWPA

Asia Pacific Report

An Australian advocacy group in support of West Papuan self-determination has criticised the Melanesian Spearhead Group leaders for failing to grant West Papua full membership in the organisation at last week’s summit in Port Vila.

While praising Vanuatu Minister for Climate Change Adaptation Ralph Regenvanu for his public stance in support of the West Papuans, Australia West Papua Association (AWPA) spokesperson Joe Collins said that “every West Papuan and their supporters also feel let down by the MSG leaders”.

Collins, who was in Port Vila for the coinciding second West Papuan leaders summit, said in a statement: ”Over the last few months in West Papua, the grassroots have taken to the streets calling on the MSG to grant full membership to the ULMWP (United Liberation Movement for West Papua) at the MSG.

“Many were arrested, beaten, tortured and jailed as they rallied peaceful in calling on the MSG to support them.

“It is tragic that the MSG did not respond to their call. Do the MSG leaders not read the reports of the ongoing human rights abuses in West Papua?”

Collins cited a video and human rights report about attacks on villages around Kiwirok in West Papua and the aftermath exposing Indonesian military brutality as recent examples.

“Surely with all the aid flowing to the Pacific countries it’s not simply a case of ‘follow the Money?’, Collins said.

Humanitarian aid
He referred to an article in the Vanuatu Daily Post which reported: “A top Vanuatu government official allegedly travelled to Jakarta to negotiate a reported VT300 million to fund the VIP Lounge of Port Vila International Airport and fund humanitarian aid.

“The ground breaking ceremony happened recently.”

The ground-breaking ceremony for the Indonesian-funded ugrade of the VIP Lounge in Port Vila
The ground-breaking ceremony for the Indonesian-funded ugrade of the VIP Lounge at Port Vila’s Bauerfield Airport last week. Image: Vanuatu Daily Post

Collins said that when the Indonesian delegation walked out of the MSG summit as ULMWP leader Benny Wenda prepared to speak, “it was not only an insult to West Papua but to the MSG leaders as well.”

“The leaders should have granted full membership to the ULMWP [in response to] that outrageous act alone,” Collins added.

“If the MSG leaders failed West Papua, the people of the Pacific, and Vanuatu in particular, do not.

“Just spending a few days in Port Vila, one can see the support for West Papua everywhere. The West Papuan flag flying free, and stickers, in taxis and on walls.”

The West Papuan representatives at their own summit also “showed a determined people committed to their freedom”.

The West Papuan summit was addressed by Regenvanu and a former Vanuatu prime minister, Barak Sope.

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