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ULM ‘positive’ at ‘disappointing’ MSG decision

Saturday 27 June 2015 | Published in Regional


HONIARA – The United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULM) has expressed gratitude for progress made but still intends pursuing full membership of the Melanesia Spearhead Group.

The Pacific sub-regional group of nations held its summit this week in Solomon Islands and granted observer status to the ULM and made Indonesia an associate member.

It also placed a qualification on the ULM saying it was there to represent Melanesians from outside, amid continued claims it does not represent the people living in the Indonesian-ruled provinces of Papua and West Papua.

But despite the disappointment of not being recognised in the way they hoped, the organisation is taking a positive view – one of the ULM leaders’, Benny Wenda, says they appreciate the recognition at last.

“You know for 53 years our voice was never recognised in the regional and international fora – so this is why this is the first step for West Papua to become an observer in the Melanesian Spearhead Group.”

Benny Wenda says the ULMWP will continue still seek full membership.

Not all observers are so positive. A Solomon Island academic says the Melanesian Spearhead Group’s rejection of West Papua’s bid for full membership, while elevating Indonesia’s status, is disappointing.

In a statement released ahead of the official communiqué, Papua New Guinea’s Prime Minister, Peter O’Neill, announced that the United Liberation Movement for West Papua will be given observer status as a “development partner representing the welfare of Melanesian people living outside.”

O’Neill said the decision reaffirms that representation at the sub-regional level must be by mandated leaders elected by their people.

But Dr Tarcisius Tara Kabutaulaka who is an associate professor at the University of Hawai‘i’s school of Pacific Island Studies, says the outcome ignores the representative status already held by the ULM.

“Not so much for the fact that West Papua has been admitted only as an observer member but for the fact the Indonesia has been made a member of the MSG. I think that’s the big disappointment.

“On the other hand the fact that West Papua has been accorded an observer status is a good thing its a step in the right direction.”

The ULM had hoped to follow in the footsteps of New Caledonia’s FLNKS in obtaining full MSG membership without being a sovereign government, thus giving it its first recognition at an international level since it was incorporated into Indonesia.

But Indonesia’s diplomatic push in the region in recent months it would seem has been successful in preventing the West Papuans’ bid and increasing its own status in the MSG.