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By Felix Chaudhary in Suva

“We are proud Fijians and Melanesians today” — Fiji Council of Social Services executive director Vani Catanasiga said this in the wake of news that Fiji Prime Minister Sitiveni Rabuka has confirmed his support for West Papua’s bid for full membership of the Melanesian Spearhead Group.

“We are overjoyed and are in celebration right now as the news is being conveyed through various social media channels to our members across the country,” she said.

“This is the principled and compassionate leadership we have all been waiting for and were denied in the past 16 years.

“Vinaka vakalevu Mr Rabuka — we are proud Fijians and Melanesians today.

“Thank you to the chiefs who welcomed and committed support to the case, Ratu Epenisa Cakobau and Ro Teimumu Kepa.

“Thank you to the Reverend Kolivuso of Faith Harvest Church and his congregation for hosting the West Papua Delegation last Sunday.

‘Historical day’
“It is a historical day for Fiji and I’m sure this will be celebrated by our kinfolk in West Papua.

“This decision and announcement takes West Papua closer to their goal for self determination and freedom from oppression and abuse.”

Catanasiga issued the statement following a meeting between United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP) president Benny Wenda and Prime Minister Rabuka in Nadi on Thursday.

After the historic meeting, Rabuka tweeted, “Yes, we will support them (United Liberation Movement for West Papua) because they are Melanesians. I am more hopeful (ULMWP) gaining full MSG membership. I am not taking it for granted.

“The dynamics may have changed slightly but the principles are the same”.

Speaking to The Fiji Times prior to meeting with Rabuka, Wenda said that by gaining full membership of the MSG he hoped to engage in discussions with Indonesia on the human rights abuses and issues facing his people and seek a way forward that would benefit both parties.

Felix Chaudhary is a Fiji Times reporter. Republished with permission.

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