Pacific News Minute: Indonesia Says West Papua’s Bid for International Recognition Reaches Dead End

Feb 21, 2018

Map of West Papua
Credit Kimdime / CC BY-SA 4.0 / Wikimedia Commons

Last week, we reported on the inconclusive decision by the Melanesian Spearhead Group on West Papua’s bid for full membership. Since then, Indonesia’s declared victory in its campaign to block international recognition for the United Liberation Movement, and we’ve learned more about how they did it. Neal Conan has details in today’s Pacific News Minute.

Last week, a senior Indonesian diplomat issued a blunt warning to the summit of the Melanesian Spearhead Group. Indonesia, an associate member of the sub-regional organization, was represented by Desra Percaya, the Director General of Asia-Pacific and African Affairs at Indonesia’s Foreign Ministry.

According to the Indonesian news agency Antara, he reminded member states that the founding principles of the MSG include “refraining from meddling in other countries businesses, much less their sovereignty.”

The founding principles of the MSG also include political independence for all Melanesians. Many question the legitimacy of Indonesia’s seizure of the western half of New Guinea 50 years ago, and object to what they regard as systematic abuse of its indigenous peoples.

Map of member countries of the Melanesian Spearhead Group
Credit AK Rockefeller / Flickr

The Indonesian government insists that Jakarta is their sole legitimate representative. It regards the United Liberation Movement as separatists, notes that their cause has not been recognized by the United Nations decolonization committee, and, after last week’s summit, a spokesman for Indonesia’s embassy in Australia declared that the ULM’s bid for full membership had reached a dead end.

In fact, the MSG leadership referred the membership application to its secretariat, based in Port Vila, the capital of Vanuatu. This week, Radio New Zealand Pacific reported that Indonesia’s been funding the MSG secretariat for the past few years, picking up the slack when the five full members fail to pay their annual dues.