MSG Summit described as a test for Melanesian identity
A West Papuan in Australia says a lack of a philosophy on which Melanesia can identify its place in the modern world is holding the region's leaders back from advancing the interests of Melanesian peoples.
This week's Melanesian Spearhead Group leaders summit in Honiara, with its ultimatum on West Papua and Indonesian membership bids, has been described as a test of collective identity for Melanesians.
Yamin Kagoya is an Australia-based West Papuan social worker and student.
He says the decision due on the West Papuan membership bid is a perfect chance for the MSG to assert Melanesian identity.
However Mr Kagoya believes a lack of a philosophy on which Melanesia can identify its place in the modern world is holding the region's leaders back from advancing the interests of Melanesian peoples.
He also told Johnny Blades that this also applies to West Papua's leaders.
YAMIN KAGOYA: We in West Papua do not have a legitimate power structure by which we can protect our land, people, culture and our tribal identities so therefore any policies that come in from Jakarta to Papua or in relation to Papua is either to develop or destroy. I have to make one point Johnny, this is very important. Sometimes it is easy for us to really look at Indonesia as a demonic sort of figure that is destroying Papuans. In many ways this is true but Jakarta has been putting so much money into Papua for development, for houses, for education but Papuan elite are misusing this money. The little bit of blessing we are getting from Jakarta we could use that wisely to improve our health, our education and other infrastructure but our leaders cannot come together and work as one to provide some sort of stable mechanism by which this money can be used wisely. Our people are sort of confused in many ways. Stranded in between civilisations if you like. We need to move away completely to modernity but in a way we can't because this world is not from us.
JOHNNY BLADES: You just mentioned this lack of a legitimate leadership structure. Isn't that the very reason why some of the MSG leaders have said they cannot accept this bid or that has prevented a West Papuan membership bid going through because who speaks for all the Papuans? It remains for them, unclear.
YK: That is absolutely right. We have been struggling with leadership issues since day one, since the 60s, especially in the case of West Papua. Leadership issues have been the major issue in our struggle and recently the West Papuan prominent activists come together and decided to form this new United Liberation Front for West Papua but we still are facing a lot of challenges. These challenges come down to recognising who we are as a people. We need some sort of philosophical basis, some sort of who we are as a people because Melanesia is very, very difficult to define. I think the leaders are struggling to come together because you have got to think every single one of these leaders somehow we are tied strongly to our tribal and clan kinship and what is most likely what is going to happen is that our loyalties to these ties is more stronger than our vision to build a united West Papua or united Melanesia and this is part of the problem.
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