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Asia Pacific Report

The United Liberation Movement for West Papua has responded cautiously over the Melanesian Spearhead Group’s surprise denial of full membership at its leaders summit last week, welcoming the communique while calling for urgent action over Indonesia’s grave human rights violations.

In a statement released today by President Benny Wenda after the second ULMWP leaders’ summit in Port Vila, the movement said the MSG had “misinterpreted” its founding principles based on the “inalienable right” of colonised countries for independence.

Strong speeches in support of the West Papuan struggle were made at the ULMWP summit by Vanuatu’s Ralph Regenvanu, the current Climate Minister and a former foreign minister, and Barak Sope, a former prime minister.

Vanuatu's Climate Change Minister Ralph Regenvanu
Vanuatu’s Climate Change Minister Ralph Regenvanu . . . one of the speakers at the ULMWP leaders’ summit. Image: Joe Collins/AWPA

Wenda said the ULMWP agreed to the MSG chair asking the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) to ensure that the requested visit of the UN Human Rights Commissioner to Indonesia takes place, and to asking Jakarta to allow the commissioner to visit West Papua and have the report considered at the next MSG summit in 2024.

But he added the hope that the MSG chair would “honour” these commitments urgently, “given the grave human rights violations on the ground in West Papua, including the recent warnings on human rights issues from the UN Special Advisor on Genocide”.

The ULMWP also expressed:

  • Scepticism about the impact of the renewed call for a UN visit, given that the visit had been continually denied in spite of the 2019 calls by the Pacific islands Forum (PIF) and the Organisation of African, Caribbean and Pacific States (OACPS);
  • Reservation on the possibility of future dialogue with the Indonesia government. Full MSG membership was a precondition;
  • Reservation on the discussion of “closer collaboration” with the Indonesian government when the people of West Papua had asked for full MSG membership; and
  • Reservation on the statement: “Membership must be limited only to sovereign and independent states, with special arrangements for FLNKS”.

On the FLNKS statement, Wenda said: “This appears to be a misinterpretation of the founding principles of the Melanesian Spearhead Group which state that, ‘having come together, the Melanesian Spearhead Group commit themselves to the principles of, respect for, and promotion of, independence as the inalienable right of colonial countries and people.’”

Port Moresby’s Governor Powes Parkop with the West Papuan Morning Star flag … “Our heritage is that we defend our land and our people.” Image: Filbert Simeon

Meanwhile, as condemnation of the MSG’s position on West Papua has grown since the “disappointing” summit last week, Governor Powes Parkop of Papua New Guinea’s capital Port Moresby, has made renewed criticism.

“I am totally disappointed but I will never give up until my last breath,” he told Asia Pacific Report.

“Our heritage is that we defend our land and our people. For thousands of years we defeated the Melayu people of Indonesia or the various Muslim and Hindu empires which tried to enter our ancestral land.

“They never succeeded. We only were overwhelmed by European superior weapons and abilities in 1800s and subsequently Indonesians took over after arming themselves with these superior weapons left by colonial powers and the Japanese invading army,” said Parkop, who has long been a critic of Papua New Guinea’s failure to take a stronger stance over Indonesia.

“I will honour our heritage and our ancestors by continuing to challenge Indonesian rule over West Papua our ancestral land. We have lost many battles, heroes and heroines, but Indonesia has and will never win the war.

“We are fighting for our rights, our dignity and our heritage and nothing Indonesia does will dent that drive and energy.”

ULMWP president Benny Wenda with supporters in Port Vila
ULMWP president Benny Wenda (red shirt) with supporters in Port Vila, including a former Vanuatu prime minister, Barak Sope. Image: SBS World News screenshot APR
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