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By Hilaire Bule in Port Vila

Benny Wenda, the interim president of the United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP), has welcomed the Melanesian Spearhead Group’s confirmation that its application for full membership would be discussed at the 22nd MSG Leaders’ Summit in Port Vila — but warned it would be a test.

Wenda conveyed the anticipation of the West Papua people, including those in exile, who await their potential admission as an MSG member.

Reflecting on the unity of various West Papuan groups, including the West Papua Council of Churches, Wenda said that 25 representatives were currently in Port Vila to celebrate the MSG leaders’ decision if it granted West Papua full membership.

Despite previous attempts during past leaders’ summits, Wenda expressed confidence that this time their application would be accepted, reflecting their aspiration for a rightful place within the Melanesian family.

“Our dream, our desire — by blood and race — entitles us to be a member,” he said.

“Today in West Papua, seven regional executives support our cause. Our people support it. Intimidation and harassment from Indonesia is happening right now.

“We aren’t seeking independence, just full membership. In Indonesia, there is no hope, and now it is time for the leaders to make the right decision,” Wenda said.

Membership pursuit
Acknowledging their long-standing lobbying efforts, Wenda noted that their pursuit for membership has been ongoing.

He referenced the 2013 MSG Leaders Summit in Noumea, New Caledonia, where leaders voiced support for their self-determination, recognising the unity among the West Papuan people.

In 2014, Vanuatu hosted a meeting to gather all West Papua factions at the Malvatumauri National Council of Chiefs nakamal.

Indonesian aid for Vanuatu - VDP 240823
Indonesian aid for Vanuatu . . . a controversial topic that was front page news in the Vanuatu Daily Post today. Image: Joe Collins/AWPA

“In 2014, we gathered all factions in West Papua for the ULMWP, Wenda said.

“In 2015, during the MSG Leaders’ Summit in Solomon Islands, Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare advocated for full MSG membership for West Papua, but we were granted observer status instead,” Wenda said.

“We are now pushing for full membership because we’ve met the criteria, making it time for the leaders to agree.

“This is the moment the entire world, all Melanesians, are watching. It’s a test for the leaders to see if they will stand up for West Papua in the eyes of the world.”

Atrocities committed
He commented on their vulnerable position due to the atrocities committed against them by Indonesia, which had resulted in their minority status.

ULMWP leader Benny Wenda
ULMWP leader Benny Wenda . . . “Our dream, our desire — by blood and race — entitles us to be a member.” Image: RNZ screenshot APR

Presently, ULMWP holds observer status within the MSG, while Indonesia is an associate member.

The MSG consists of member countries Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and the pro-independence Front de Libération Nationale Kanak et Socialiste (FLNKS) of Kanaky New Caledonia.

The three visiting MSG Prime Ministers — Sitiveni Rabuka from Fiji, James Marape from Papua New Guinea and Manasseh Sogavare from Solomon Islands– are already in Port Vila.

The FLNKS is represented by its former president, Victor Tutugoro.

The 22nd MSG Leaders’ Summit, chaired by Prime Minister Ishmael Kalsakau of Vanuatu, opened with a ceremonial welcome by chiefs at Saralana yesterday.

The official remarks were followed by the unveiling of carvings at the MSG Secretariat, the Leaders’ Retreat at Warwick Le Lagon, and a plenary session.

Hilaire Bule is a Vanuatu Daily Post journalist. Republished with permission.

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