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Pacific News Minute: West Papuan Liberation Movement Appeals Again To Fellow Melanesians

CC BY-SA 4.0 / Wikimedia Commons

The United Liberation Movement of West Papua has again applied for full membership in the Melanesian Spearhead Group. The ULM hopes that new leadership in the Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea may improve its chances.

The United Liberation Movement has tried to bring its case to the United Nations, to the Pacific Islands Forum, but especially to the sub-regional Melanesian Spearhead Group. A couple of years ago, it won observer status at the MSG.

But, that same year, Indonesia was accepted as an associate member. Jakarta rejects any questions about human rights abuses in West Papua as unjustified interference in its internal affairs and it rejects the ULM as unelected outsiders with no claim to represent the people of West Papua.

Persistent lobbying by Indonesia swayed three of the five members of the MSG to its side, but suddenly there are new prime ministers in the Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea. So far, neither has given any indication of a change on West Papua and even if they did, Fiji remains firmly in Indonesia’s camp.

Last week, during a debate in Parliament, the opposition’s shadow foreign minister accused the government of ignoring the enslavement and slaughter of fellow Melanesians.

“It is blatantly obvious,” said MP Anare Jale, “that Fiji has succumbed to Indonesia’s check-book diplomacy.”

His arguments made no impression on the government. 

While the ULM pursues diplomacy, a low-level guerrilla war continues inside West Papua. This week, RNZ Pacific reports that the West Papua Liberation Army admits it’s enlisted child soldiers as young as 15, an admission that may undermine international support.

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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