Academic says future of MSG hinges on West Papua
The Royal Solomon Islands Police Force says it is making good progess in its efforts to rearm special units in the organisation.
A Solomon Islands academic says the future of the Melanesian Spearhead Group hinges on how its leaders vote on West Papuan membership in the upcoming meeting.
Tarcisius Tara Kabutaulaka who is an Associate Professor at the University of Hawaii's school of Pacific Island Studies says it seems MSG leaders can either make a moral decision to support the indigenous people of West Papua or an economic one and choose to strengthen ties with Indonesia.
Mr Kabutaulaka told Koroi Hawkins either decision will shape the future of the MSG.
TARCISIUS TARA KABUTAULAKA: The upcoming MSG meeting will be very important for two reasons, one it will demonstrate whether or not there is unity within the Melanesian Spearhead Group amongst the Melanesian countries and the second is the role that Indonesia plays as it poses itself as an emerging Asia and Pacific power and the important role it will have not only in the Melanesian region but the Pacific Islands region as well. So for those two reasons, these MSG meetings and the issue of West Papua is important, of course, another reason why it's important is because the people of West Papua, particularly the indigenous Melanesian people of West Papua are placing their hope on the Melanesian Spearhead Group and this will mean a lot to them on whether or not the MSG decides to admit West Papua's membership of the MSG.
KOROI HAWKINS: Now there seems to be a lot of public support within all the MSG countries for West Papua. Why do you think that does not translate into their government's doing what seems to be quite an easy decision in terms of public support for West Papua?
TTK: That's a very good question and I suppose one of the reasons is that some of the governments in particular places like Fiji, and for instance Papua New Guinea are perhaps think the issue West Papua does not translate into election results, and so come the next election it will not be the issue of West Papua that will be important or in other words issues of international relations and foreign policy do not often feature very important in the election and the choices of who people vote, they will probably be looking at economic issues and so Papua New Guinea and Fiji in particular, and increasingly the case of Solomon Islands, are Indonesia is a potentially important economic partner. Fiji in particular and Papua New Guinea, and whether that economic partnership translates to provisional services on the ground, the development of infrastructure, the development of agriculture and so forth is what will determine how people vote, and so I think that's one of the important reasons that despite the widespread for West Papua not only with the Pacific but outside the Pacific it hasn't translated into government policies.
KH: And just examining so of the possible outcomes of this that not only could there be a possibility that West Papua doesn't get membership but Indonesia could be admitted as a member.
TTK: Yeah, Indonesia as you know was admitted in 2011 as an observer on the MSG and the prime minister of Fiji is now proposing that Indonesia be admitted as an associate member, what exactly an associate member means hasn't been defined and it would be interesting to see how the leaders define an associate member and it that happens a lot of things are important to consider, first is that it means that West Papua will be shut out of MSG discussions because Indonesia will have a much more important status as an associate member and the second thing is that it will mean that Indonesia will have international avenue in which to influence Pacific Island policies and things going on in the region, particularly in the Western Pacific.
KH: And looking at the other scenario, say West Papua does get membership, what then? Surely there will be some repercussions for people living in West Papua from Indonesia.
TTK: There will be repercussions, not only for people in West Papua but also for the MSG countries that have cordially relationship and have military, economic and political power with Indonesia. Fiji as you know has signed a development agreement with Indonesia and it would be interesting what would happen, if West Papua is admitted as a member of the MSG. Within West Papua, of course, there has always been human rights abuses and there have been human rights abuses and there have been a lot of Indonesian government campaign against the membership of the West Papuans in and around the MSG and if they are admitted it would mean that I suspect Indonesian government would clamp down much more harshly on particularly pro-independence governments within West Papua.
To embed this content on your own webpage, cut and paste the following: