MSG has failed its original purpose, says PNG MP
A Papua New Guinea MP says the Melanesian Spearhead Group has failed its original mandate and should be disbanded due to the way its leaders appear beholden to external forces, particularly on the issue of West Papua.
A Papua New Guinea MP says the Melanesian Spearhead Group has failed its original mandate and should be disbanded.
Gary Juffa, who is the Governor of Oro Province, says the MSG's leadership does not act in a way that represents Melanesian voices, but panders all too often to external forces.
His comment comes after the Indonesian President, Joko Widodo, visited PNG this week as high-level lobbying intensifies over the looming decision on a MSG membership bid by the United Liberation Movement for West Papua.
Mr Juffa told Johnny Blades he doubts whether MSG leaders are able to make their own minds up about this.
GARY JUFFA: From my own assessment of the whole situation, it will be dragged into this diplomatic, bureaucratic space where it can just take so long. The Indonesian government is also countering by proposing a number of other (Indonesian) provinces as MSG members. So they're clouding the waters as well. Really, the chair is Solomon Islands, but Solomon Islands would defer to PNG and take their cue from PNG. That's what I suspect will happen. If Fiji and PNG remain silent then the other three could vote and West Papua could be given recognition. Remember Solomon Islands did that with New Caledonia and the Kanaks.
JOHNNY BLADES: Because we know within the MSG the FLNKS (of New Caledonia) seems to be with Vanuatu on the West Papua thing. Solomon Islands seems somewhere in the middle.
GJ: It is. Many members of the Solomon Islands government are pro-West Papuan. But you know there's a new things rising: growing resentment of the MSG in the region from the Melanesian countries - I can tell you this. I've spoken to a number of their leaders, I won't mention names. But they openly say the MSG is failing its purpose and should be disbanded. I've heard this from Solomon Islands and Vanuatu officials - they said disband it, what's the point? If it's going to be there to be dictated to by Indonesia then there's no point.
JB: So the concerns are generally around the West Papua issue and how it's been handled?
GJ: Certainly. MSG was set up to fight for Melanesian views and issues, not just be a trade agreement conduit, and not just be a muppet and puppet to the will and whim of say Indonesia. What is the purpose of such a body? That's the sentiment I get.
JB: Is the MSG not making any gains in other areas like trade?
GJ: What do they trade? Biscuits and kava... forget it.
JB: It's early days, surely.
GJ: (Laughs) Early days and we're lost before we've even taken the first step in the journey towards where? Where are we supposed to be going? They're already accepting PACER-Plus and the Trans Pacific Partnership, two of the most sinister trade agreements in this part of the world, that just seek to exploit and sell out the economies of this region. Why are we not saying anything about that?
JB: Could the MSG change if there were different leaders at the table?
GJ: It could change, if we have leaders instead of just politicians. Decolonised mindsets are needed here: people who can actually get off their knees and stop playing their subservient roles.
Meanwhile, PNG's prime minister Peter O'Neill says his government will push for Indonesia to become an associate member of the MSG to encourage greater participation of its 11 million West Papuans in cultural, trade and investment opportunities with their Melanesian wantoks.
Indonesia currently has observer status at the MSG.
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