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Pacific News Minute: Melanesian Spearhead Group Defers Decision on West Papua

AK Rockefeller / Flickr
AK Rockefeller / Flickr

A week ago, as leaders of the Melanesian Spearhead Group gathered in Honiara, the capital of the Solomon Islands, it looked like they were ready to make an historic decision on the status of West Papua.  But after a closed door meeting that lasted late into the evening, the summit postponed the decision for three months...we have details from Neal Conan in the Pacific News Minute.

The issue was whether to accept the United Liberation Movement for West Papua as a full member, over the strenuous objections of the regional giant, Indonesia.  In the end, a bland statement cited problems with membership criteria, and named a committee to resolve the issue before a special summit in September.  The statement tried to paper over a furious disagreement; the two largest members of the MSG back Jakarta, while the three smallest passionately support the ULM.

Charlot Salwai, Prime Minister of Vanuatu, said his country "gravely regrets"  the deferral and vowed to continue the fight.  But while Prime Minister Salwai portrayed the summit's outcome as a postponement, Indonesian media reported that the MSG had rejected the ULM.  The Jakarta Globe quoted deputy foreign minister Desra Percaya as saying that intensive lobbying by the Indonesian delegation had convinced MSG leaders "There Is no place for the ULM in the future of the MSG."

The ULM and its supporters say it's the true representative of the colonized indigenous peoples of West Papua...Indonesia has ruled the western half of New Guinea for more than 50 years. Jakarta describes the ULM as a separatist movement, and refuses any inquiries about human rights violations as an infringement of its sovereignty. 

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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