27 Dec 2016

MSG discussions highlight Indonesia schism

12:35 pm on 27 December 2016

Differences in approach between Indonesian and West Papuan representatives reached a head at Melanesian Spearhead Group meetings in Vanuatu last week.

An Indonesian captures the Melanesian Spearhead Group proceedings, 20 December 2016 in Port Vila, on device. West Papuan representatives Benny Wenda and Octo Mote (MSG observers with the United Liberation Movement) in foreground.

An Indonesian captures the Melanesian Spearhead Group proceedings, 20 December 2016 in Port Vila, on device. West Papuan representatives Benny Wenda and Octo Mote (MSG observers with the United Liberation Movement) in foreground. Photo: Supplied

MSG senior officials and foreign ministers had meetings at the group's secretariat in Port Vila, with the findings of a review of MSG rules on membership the main agenda item.

This comes as the MSG considers a full membership application by the United Liberation Movement for West Papua.

The Liberation Movement, which has observer status in the MSG, protested at efforts by Indonesian officials at the meeting to dictate terms on the wording of discussions.

Indonesia, which has associate member status, wanted wording to ensure that the Liberation Movement cannot become a full member.

Full member states of MSG including Papua New Guinea and Solomon islands also protested at what was seen as a breach of Melanesian discussion procedure.

Tabloid Jubi reports that the Indonesian delegation, as well as the ULMWP, was asked to leave the meeting room briefly while other delegations continued the formulation of criteria for membership.

Their views were still considered as written statements.

Meanwhile, the Director-General of the MSG secretariat, Amela Yauvoli said preparation of MSG membership criteria is not a new agenda and has been discussed since the beginning of 2016.

He said that currently some neighbouring Melanesian countries want to become members of the MSG, and not only the Liberation Movement, therefore membership criteria must be clarified.

MSG decisions about new membership will be decided in the meeting of the leaders of the MSG in January next year.

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