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Pacific News Minute: West Papua’s Case for Recognition Inches Forward


A summit meeting of the Melanesian Spearhead Group is underway in Port Moresby this week, with leaders still unable to decide on full recognition for the United Liberation Movement of West Papua. The group represents the indigenous peoples of the western half of New Guinea, which has been part of Indonesia for more than fifty years. We have more from Neal Conan in today’s Pacific News Minute.

The Melanesian Spearhead Group is a sub-regional organization whose principles include self-determination. Papua New Guinea emerged from Australian Rule, Fiji and the Solomon Islands were British, Vanuatu was shared by Britain and France, and the group showed its anti-colonialist fervor by extending full membership to FLNKs – the Kanak Socialist Liberation Front of New Caledonia, which is still part of France.

Vanuatu, The Solomons and FLNKS want to extend recognition to their cousins in West Papua; Fiji and Papua New Guinea are torn between ethnic solidarity and the political and economic influence of Indonesia.

After yesterday’s summit in Port Moresby, a statement announced that the ULM’s application for membership had been referred to the MSG secretariat for processing. And it’s unclear whether that means the bureaucracy will decide. Unlikely given the sensitivity of the issue or that the decision’s been indefinitely postponed.

Credit AK Rockefeller / Flickr
Map of the Melanesian Spearhead Group.

The new leader of the ULM, Benny Wenda, told PNG Loop News that he was satisfied with the outcome. In the meantime, the situation inside West Papua continues to deteriorate. Papuan militants have targeted operations at the huge American owned Grasberg copper mine for months now. Earlier this week, an Indonesian soldier was shot and killed in an ambush.

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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