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‘Huge support’ for West Papua bid to join MSG, says under cover journo

Solomon Islands solidarity movement for WP 190615 425wide

A solidarity support demonstration in the Solomon Islands capital of Honiara yesterday. Image: ULMWP

Pacific Scoop:
Report – By Pacific Media Watch in Honiara

A Dutch journalist who has been travelling in Indonesia’s Papua region says the depth of local support for a West Papuan application to join the Melanesian Spearhead Group is huge.

The MSG leaders are due in Honiara next week when they are expected to make a decision on a membership bid by the United Liberation Movement of West Papua, an organisation of leading West Papuan representative groups.

Reporting undercover from Papua, Rohan Radheya said recently there had been many demonstrations in support of the bid.

“All the people I talk to, they are very optimistic that their Melanesian brothers and sisters will vote in their favour. They are hopeful but they’re also very afraid… sort of: what next, after that, if we are abandoned again? That would be such a hard blow for them because they have worked for this MSG membership for such a long time. And if they get rejected that would definitely be a knockout blow for them.”

Radheya said many Papuans who demonstrated support of the MSG bid had been taken in by Indonesia’s security forces, RNZI reports.

He said foreign media outlets interested in covering this region should engage more with local journalists.

He said the plight of West Papuan journalists tended to be ignored in the growing commentary about access to Papua for foreign media.

Ban not lifted
Radheya said despite the Indonesian president’s recent claim that the ban on foreign journalists in Papua was being lifted, he did not believe the heavy restrictions were being lifted at all.

“But the point is there are so many local journalists here who face threats and intimidation daily by Indonesian forces. They are good journalists, they have a good network and some of the guys I met, they have bullet holes, they have been stabbed by forces, and they continue to wake up in the morning and just go about and do their jobs.”

Radheya said local journalists would be more than willing to contibute to foreign media outlets.

Radio New Zealand International has also reported that the Solomon Islands government would not back the ULMWP as a full member of the MSG.

The Manasseh Sogavare-led government, which hosts the MSG Leaders summit next week, said it would endorse West Papua to be an observer and this status would be “given only to one united group”.

In a statement, the government said it would agree that any submission for full membership by a group representing Melanesians throughout Indonesia must be united and done in consultation with Indonesia.

It said it also wanted the MSG to continue looking at ways to make Indonesia an associate member of the MSG.

Melanesian values
The government said it had made its decisions to enhance Melanesian solidarity, values, continuity and maintain good neighbourliness.

The New Caledonia FLNKS and Vanuatu have traditionally backed West Papua’s push to join the MSG, but Port Vila’s position is unclear after the toppling of the Natuman government.

Fiji has been strongly backing the Jakarta position and the leadership in Papua New Guinea has been ambivalent on the issue.

Source: Pacific Media Watch 9307

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