MSG membership for United Liberation Movement for West Papua postponed on legal technicality

Papua Merdeka! Photo:

The Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) Leaders’ meeting, currently being held in Honiara, Solomon Islands, yesterday deferred its decision to welcome the United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP) as a full member of MSG until another meeting planned for Port Vila in September. The MSG says this decision was taken as the wording of MSG’s rules for membership needs to be clarified to give ULMWP, a liberation movement, the same membership status as MSG founding member (and fellow liberation movement), Front de libération nationale kanak et socialiste (FLNKS) of New Caledonia.

MSG associate, Indonesia, the colonial occupier of West Papua, opposes ULMWP joining the MSG, and is currently supported by only two out of the five founding members of MSG, Fiji and Papua New Guinea.

The majority of the founding members of MSG – Vanuatu, FLNKS and Solomon Islands – support full membership for the West Papua liberation movement, as do the majority of the population of all MSG countries.

PNG PM Peter O’Neill, who has been a vocal supporter of Indonesia, is currently fighting for his political life as his government faces a vote of no-confidence in PNG’s parliament.

O’Neill has also come under attack from former Prime Minister of PNG, Grand Chief Sir Michael Somare, for opposing West Papuan independence in defiance of the overwhelming support of PNG’s people for the decolonisation of the other half of the island of New Guinea, where he says “our ancestors roamed freely over our shared land and sea for centuries prior to colonial and Christian interventions”.

Here’s the full text of the MSG’s statement on the decision:

Leaders agreed to defer the consideration of the application for full membership by ULMWP until membership criteria and guidelines are further developed by the Sub-Committee on Legal and Institutional Issues (SCLII), considering fundamental principles, political aspirations, and principles of international law and to be completed end of September 2016.

Leaders did not reach consensus and directed the SCLII to undertake further review on:

(i) the revised application Procedures, Criteria, and Participatory Rights and Obligations of an Observer and an Associate Member to the MSG.

(ii) the new membership guidelines for full membership to the MSG.

Leaders agreed to meet in Port Vila, Vanuatu before the end of September 2016.