West Papuan delegates meet in Vanuatu over MSG bid
West Papuan delegates are converging on Vanuatu's capital to try to form a unified bid to get West Papua membership of the Melanesian Spearhead Group.
West Papuan delegates are converging on Vanuatu's capital to try and form a unified bid to get West Papua membership of the Melanesian Spearhead Group.
The three-day conference follows a march through Port Vila, and other centres around the world, on Monday to mark what separatists call West Papua Independence day.
Jamie Tahana reports.
Earlier this year, the West Papua National Coalition for Liberation put forward a campaign to join the Melanesian Spearhead Group. But the bid was knocked back by the MSG, whose leaders called for a more representative bid. The chair of Vanuatu's West Papua Unification Committee, Pastor Alain Nafuki, says around 200 West Papuans from across the region and beyond are expected to help create that bid on Wednesday.
ALAIN NAFUKI: By this summit we expect all of them will sign requesting membership for MSG. Yes, I'm confident that this is one of our main highlights in our summit.
The Australia-based President of the International Forum on West Papua, Amatus Douw, says the conference will unite different groupings in West Papua in the hope of gaining access to the MSG.
AMATUS DOUW: We expect that all different resistance groups in West Papua and outside of West Papua must unite in one umbrella organisation and from there we will make our application for membership to [the] MSG.
However, delegates trying to travel from New Guinea to Port Vila have encountered various logistical difficulties, especially those coming from the Indonesian side. The Indonesian government, which is currently an observer with the MSG, has sent a letter of protest to Vanuatu's government concerning its move to host the conference.
But that didn't stop Vanuatu's Prime Minister, Joe Natuman, government ministers and chiefs from walking through the streets of Port Vila on Monday to mark West Papua Independence Day ahead of the conference. At another Independence Day gathering outside New Zealand's Parliament in Wellington, Victoria University Pacific Studies lecturer, Teresia Teaiwa, said Vanuatu's stance was inspirational.
TERESIA TEAIWA: It's been the only country in the Pacific that's consistently supported West Papua's right to self-determination. It's also really disturbing that Indonesia's threatening to punish Vanuatu for this. But I think it tells us something really important, and that this is a struggle worth standing up for.
Back in Port Vila, Vanuatu's former Prime Minister, Edward Natapei, said that if a single body for West Papua is formed, then there's no reason why it wouldn't be able to become a member at the next MSG leaders' summit.
EDWARD NATAPEI: We hope that after this meeting, there will come out a united force that will prove beyond doubt the West Papuans are united, and therefore they should be admitted to be members of the MSG.
Whether or not that united force is created should be known when the conference ends later this week.
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