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Pacific News Minute: Drive for West Papuan Independence Picks Up International Support

Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons

Over the last year, the issue of West Papuan independence has emerged as a major regional issue, and could soon become prominent internationally. As we hear from Neal Conan in today's Pacific News Minute, the key could be the upcoming summit, of the Melanesian Spearhead Group.

Indonesia took over the Western half of New Guinea as the Dutch Colonial Empire collapsed in the 1960s, and insists that its sovereignty there is beyond dispute. But last year,  fractious Papuan independence groups coalesced into a umbrella organization called the United Liberation Movement, and they took their case, to their cousins, in the five countries of the Melanesian Spearhead Group. 

Last year, in a breakthrough, the United Liberation Movement gained official recognition, as an observer. But Indonesia also won new status, as an associate member.

Both have since lobbied hard for full membership. An Indonesian diplomatic mission earlier this year won support from MSG members Fiji and Papua New Guinea, but, this month, Manaseh Sogovare, the Prime Minister of the Solomon Islands and the current chairman of the MSG, backed the United Liberation Movement and said the MSG summit should go further, and  ask the United Nations to act on what he called Indonesian genocides in West Papua. "Indonesia has crossed the line," he said, "so we need to take some tough stance." 

With longstanding support from Vanuatu and the Kanaks of New Caledonia, West Papua should have a majority in the MSG, but Fiji and Papua New Guinea are much the largest countries in the group. And, of course, Indonesia dwarfs all five MSG countries put together.

The MSG summit is now set for June, in Port Moresby.

Over 36 years with National Public Radio, Neal Conan worked as a correspondent based in New York, Washington, and London; covered wars in the Middle East and Northern Ireland; Olympic Games in Lake Placid and Sarajevo; and a presidential impeachment. He served, at various times, as editor, producer, and executive producer of All Things Considered and may be best known as the long-time host of Talk of the Nation. Now a macadamia nut farmer on Hawaiʻi Island, his "Pacific News Minute" can be heard on HPR Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays.
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