18 Jun 2015

Dutch journo attests to huge West Papuan support for MSG bid

3:12 pm on 18 June 2015

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.

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 says recently there have 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."

Mr Radheya says many Papuans who demonstrate support of the MSG bid have been taken in by Indonesia's security forces.

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

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

Mr Radheya says despite the Indonesian president's recent claim that the ban on foreign journalists in Papua was being lifted, he doesn't believe the heavy restrictions are 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."

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

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