11 Apr 2011

Indonesia claim of eleven million Melanesians an exaggeration, says anthropologist

11:40 am on 11 April 2011

There are questions over Indonesia's claim that it has more than eleven million Melanesians in the country as part of justifications for joining a regional grouping.

The claim was made by senior Indonesian officials last month as they lobbied ahead of being granted observer status at the regional Melanesian Spearhead Group.

They say that as well as in Papua, the republic includes many Melanesians in Maluku, East Nusa Tenggara and other provinces.

Based on Indonesia's 2010 census, the Melanesian population of Papua is estimated at just 1.8 million.

The US anthropologist Eben Kirksey doubts the accuracy of the figures:

"The island of New Guinea is conventionally included in Melanesia but islands in other parts of the Indonesian archipelago are generally not. And I think this claim has to be thought about in light of the recent demographic data and in that context the claim that there's eleven million Melanesians in Indonesia seems quite an exaggeration."