Pacifik.news – By Adam Boland – July 16, 2016
Indonesia is confident the West Papua independence movement will never be granted full membership to the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG).
Melanesian leaders debated the issue on Thursday in Honiara but delayed making a decision until September so that more clarity could be provided about membership criteria.
Vanuatu Prime Minister Charlot Salwai says he “gravely regretted” the deferral and has vowed to keep fighting for the United Liberation Movement of West Papua (ULMWP).
But Indonesia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Desra Percaya believes the MSG will never give full membership to a “separatist movement”.
“The active participation and intensive lobbying by the Indonesian delegation, which also included representatives from five provinces, Maluku, North Maluku, East Nusa Tenggara, Papua and West Papua, has convinced MSG leaders not to accept the ULMWP’s membership application,” he says.
That “intensive lobbying” from Jakarta means Papua New Guinea and Fiji are likely to maintain their opposition to the ULMWP’s bid. Both countries say they respect the sovereignty of Indonesia.
Mr Percaya says the Melanesian region stands to benefit economically from closer ties to Indonesia.
“The combined GDP of Southeast Asian countries is US$2.6 trillion with a population of approximately 622 million people,” he says. “Almost a quarter billion of this population live in Indonesia, including the 11-million strong Melanesian population.”
The ULMWP says it remains committed to securing full membership of the MSG and doesn’t believe the deferral means Indonesia has got its way.