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By Len Garae in Port Vila

The Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) has failed West Papua, says a Vanuatu government champion of West Papuan self-determination.

Minister for Climate Change Adaptation Ralph Regenvanu, a former foreign minister and who is also a pioneer spokesman for freedom for the Melanesian people of West Papua, said this when delivering his remarks at the closing of the United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP) Second Summit in Port Vila last weekend.

“Today I feel very sad because the MSG has failed West Papua. When I found out the decision of the leaders, I was shocked and I was really sad,” he said.

“We have not gone forward, we have gone backward here in Vanuatu. And this should not have happened in Vanuatu as we are the chair of MSG.”

Today's Vanuatu Daily Post front page featuring Minister Ralph Regenvanu's condemnation of the MSG
Today’s Vanuatu Daily Post front page featuring Minister Ralph Regenvanu’s condemnation of the MSG. Image: Vanuatu Daily Post screenshot APR

Speaking on behalf of the Vanuatu government, he described the failure to admit West Papua as the latest full member of MSG, as “a failure not only by the Vanuatu fovernment, but a failure by the Vanuatu Free West Papua Association (VFWPA), a failure by the ULMWP and we all have to pull up our socks”.

He continued: “If we had all been much better prepared in working together, I think we would have had a different result here in Vanuatu.

Why was ULMWP left out?
“For example, the Vanuatu government gave an office here for ULMWP, but the ULMWP was not a participant of the senior officials’ meeting of MSG.

“What is the purpose of having a meeting to decide the agenda for the leaders if ULMWP was absent from the meeting?”

However, he assured the second ULMWP summit, “For me this meeting is more important than the MSG Summit.

“Because it is a meeting to represent the unity for the people of West Papua for the self-determination of the people of West Papua”.

Minister Regenvanu challenged ULMWP to learn from Vanuatu’s political history.

“Vanuatu became independent because we formed a political grouping called Vanua’aku Pati and everybody got behind it to become independent. In fact without it, we would not have become independent,” he said.

“I am pleading with you to refocus this organisation which was formed here in Port Vila (in 2014). Rebuild, reunite, restrategise and with a truly united movement representing all Melanesians of West Papua, and one which is responsive and strategic and smart, we can achieve what we all want to help the Vanuatu government to do better next time.

‘This is your struggle’
“The Vanuatu government is helping you but this is your struggle. We are your backup but we can’t set the direction for you. So please help us to help you.”

Vanuatu’s first former roving ambassador and a former prime minister, Barak Sope, was the second speaker.

Former Vanuatu prime minister Barak Sope
Former Vanuatu prime minister Barak Sope . . . speaking at the West Papua leaders’ summit in Port Vila at the weekend. Image: Joe Collins/AWPA

“We struggled for our freedom from Britain (and France),” he said.

“Despite what happened now [failure to adopt West Papua as latest full member of MSG], the struggle must continue until victory is certain.

“We fully support the statement of Mr Regenvanu that ‘united we stand, divided we fall’. Vanuatu will continue to support the struggle of the people of West Papua.

“We’ve always taken the stand that West Papua should have been the first Melanesian country to become independent.

“The first Speaker of Parliament (of West Papua) Ayamiseba stayed with us here. He told us everything that happened.

People of West Papua ‘sold’
“How Holland, the colonial power, sold the people of West Papua, how the United States and Australia also sold the West Papuan people.

“And how the United Nations sold the people of West Papua.

“So we must never accept how Indonesia came in and stole your freedom.

“The reason for their presence is because of West Papua’s resources and not because of us the Melanesians.

“They are stealing (Melanesian resources). They are stealing our lands, they are stealing our trees, and they are stealing our gold so the struggle must continue for West Papua victory is certain!”

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

The ceremony was closed with a prayer from the Vanuatu Christian Council.

A Melanesian custom ceremony followed. It was coordinated by the chairman of the Council of Chiefs of West Papua, referred to as “Chief Tommy”.

Witnessed by the interim president of ULMWP, Benny Wenda, and his delegates and custom chiefs of Efate, the ceremony ended in the Melanesian way with the presentation of three live pigs, food, kava and mats to the government, Vaturisu [Council of Chiefs on Efate island] and VFWPA.

Len Garae is a Vanuatu Daily Post journalist. Republished with permission.

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