Formation of united West Papua group seen as significant
: West Papua's bid to join the Melanesian Spearhead Group is one step closer, after delegates at a meeting in Vanuatu agreed to form an umbrella organisation to represent their interests.
West Papua's bid to join the Melanesian Spearhead Group is one step closer, after delegates at a meeting in Vanuatu agreed to form an umbrella organisation to represent their interests.
A campaign for West Papua to join the group was knocked back by MSG leaders at their last summit because of a lack of a more representative bid.
But the United Liberation Movement for West Papua hopes to change that.
Jamie Tahana reports.
The three-day conference in Port Vila got underway a couple of days late after a series logistical setbacks saw many delegates arriving late; including 70 who found themselves stranded in Papua New Guinea. It was hosted by Vanuatu's government, church leaders and chiefs, which drew the ire of Indonesia, with Jakarta sending a letter of protest to the government. But despite all this, the conference's goal of creating a united voice for West Papua was achieved on Saturday. The chair of Vanuatu's West Papua Unification Committee, Pastor Allan Nafuki, says the new group is made up of the KNPB, the West Papua National Coalition for Liberation and the Federal Republic of West Papua.
ALLAN NAFUKI: The three main groupings from West Papua, for the first time in history, have come together under one umbrella, under one body of three different groupings. The name is: United Liberation Movement for West Papua.
The Secretary General of the United Liberation Movement is Octo Mote, with Benny Wenda its international spokesperson. Mr Wenda says this week's announcement is one of the independence movement's most significant steps.
BENNY WENDA: This has never happened before and all the delegates came together and they put their agenda first and, yeah, it's really amazing and everybody agreed to form a single group to bring the West Papua voice to the Melanesian Spearhead Group as a full member.
One of the movement's first tasks will be to re-apply for membership to the Melanesian Spearhead Group. Allan Nafuki says the lack of a representative bid was the key reason West Papua's application was rejected at the last MSG leaders' summit. He says work is now underway on a bid at next year's summit in Solomon Islands.
ALLAN NAFUKI: Under that heading they will make an application to be submitted into the MSG. In January, they're coming back to Vila to complete the application and then that will be sent to the June MSG meeting in Honiara, Solomon Islands.
If the West Papuans make it into the MSG, they will follow in the footsteps of New Caledonia's FLNKS movement by being a member without an independent state. But with Fiji and Papua New Guinea both rejecting West Papua's bid at the last summit, and Indonesia holding observer status with the MSG, membership of is still far from certain for West Papua. A Vanuatu-based analyst of regional issues, Ben Bohane, says the United Liberation Movement has its work cut out for it.
BEN BOHANE: There's no doubt there'll be difficulties ahead. It's been a long process and even with the unification of the West Papuan groups there are still some significant challenges ahead. It's too early to say that their application will be ultimately successful but I think being able to present a united front gives them a real head start on their application.
But with Vanuatu's vehement support for West Papua, Benny Wenda and Allan Nafuki remain confident that in a year's time, there will be one extra member of the Melanesian Spearhead Group.
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