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Pacific News Minute: Melanesian Spearhead Group Summit Convenes in Solomon Islands

AK Rockefeller / FLickr
AK Rockefeller / FLickr

The twice postponed summit of the Melanesian Spearhead Group gets underway in Honiara, the capital of the Solomon Islands this week.The big issue will be West Papua, and as we hear from Neal Conan in the Pacific News Minute, there could be a showdown.

Both The United Liberation Movement for West Papua ...currently an Observer...and Associate member Indonesia have lobbied hard to become full members of the MSG this year...the ULM appears to have three votes, Indonesia two and since both claim to represent the same people, there may be no way to split the difference.

In a telling exchange earlier this year, the current MSG chair, Manasseh Sogavare, prime minister of the Solomon Islands, vented his frustration after Indonesian President Joko Widodo refused to meet with him to discuss human rights issues. “Indonesia,” Sogavare said, “had only joined the Melanesian Spearhead Group to protect its own interests. Those comments were not based in reality, shot back a senior Indonesian official, and amounted to a violation of the MSG's principles on sovereignty and non interference to boot. “Which prompted a senior MSG official to pointedly remind Jakarta that one of the group's overarching principles, is the decolonization of Melanesia.

The rhetoric has only escalated since- Sogavare said Indonesia has put indigenous people on the brink of extinction in West Papua and called for the United Nations to address what he called "genocides." In addition to the Solomon Islands, The ULM can count on support from Vanuatu and the Kanaks of New Caledonia...Jakarta claims the backing of Fiji and Papua New Guinea.

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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