MELANESIAN SPEARHEAD GROUP (MSG) MEETING IN HONIARA IN 2015: West Papua out of the darkness into the light. What’s happened since?
Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) Summit in the Solomon Islands in 2015
The MSG Summit in Honiara in 2015 was exhilarating, exasperating, and inspiring. Exhilarating, because in bestowing the United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP) with Observer Status, the MSG became the first governmental organisation to recognise the West Papuans’ independence struggle and brought them, as the Papuans say, ‘out of the dark into the light’. Exasperating, because the ULMWP application for full MSG membership was rejected by Fiji and Papua New Guinea, whose ministers instead pursued Indonesia’s proposal that it become an Associate Member. Inspiring, because faced with another MSG unable to reach consensus on West Papua, Solomon Islands Prime Minister Sogavare forged a compromise that provided the ULMWP with a seat at the negotiating table. After the Summit, he led the lobbying endeavours of other Pacific leaders in the 2016 United Nations General Assembly, Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) and African Caribbean Pacific Group.
Photo-Text Essay (PDF, 62 x A4 pages) about the 2015 MSG
This photo-text essay tells much of the 2015 MSG story: of the ULMWP’s intense intelligence lobbying before the Summit, of the pride of Pacific Island activists and politicians in pursuing their Melanesian kin’s liberation project; of the extraordinary courage of men, women and children in West Papua who chose to demonstrate their unity and support; of the prayers in churches around the world; of Australian unions galvanising behind UN Principles.
[Click to view/download/print] MSG 2015, PDF-compressed
ULMWP Executives at the 2018 MSG Summit in Port Moresby
Pacific Islands Forum, Tuvalu, 2019
The 2019 Forum (18 UN-member states, which includes Australia and New Zealand) passed its first resolution on West Papua, exhorting its members to examine the root cause of the political problem and directing Indonesia to allow the UN Fact Finding Mission it agreed to in 2017. In December 2019 the African Caribbean Pacific Group (ACP, 79 UN member-states) passed a similarly strong resolution.
2 media reports from 2019 PIF [Click to view/download/print] 2019, PIF, Tuvalu, Media
UN Letter to Indonesia, December 2021
In response to continuing pressure from the ACP, the UN wrote to the Indonesian Government in December 2021, requesting a response to allegations of “the excessive use of force against indigenous Papuans in the Indonesian provinces of Papua and West Papua including instances of extra-judicial killings, including of young children, enforced disappearance, torture and inhuman treatment and the forced displacement of at least 5,000 indigenous Papuans by security forces between April and November 2021.”
The letter also outlined the UN’s ‘previous Special Procedures communications’ about “the use of excessive force, extra-judicial killings and torture of indigenous Papuans by the police, military or joint security forces” on 4/2021, IDN 2/2021, IDN 4/ 2020, IDN 5/2020, IDN 1/2020, IDN 7/2019, IDN 6/2019, IDN 3/2019 and IDN 7/2018; and about “the forced displacement of indigenous peoples in IDN 1/2020, IDN 8/2019 and IDN 6/2019”.
[Click to view/download/print letter] UN Special Rapporteurs’ Report, 27 December 2021
Australia and New Zealand’s Legal Obligations
In continuing to support Indonesia’s colonisation of West Papua, Australia and New Zealand are in breach of their international legal obligations (including UN Res. 2625 (XXV)) and their Third State Responsibility to question sovereignty when a people are subject to alien subjugation, domination and violations of their human rights. Both need to instead support a motion at the UN to register West Papua on the UN Decolonisation List.
Such a motion would:
i) acknowledge that the chronic conflict between Indonesia and West Papuans is an international legal issue—not an internal domestic problem—that needs to be resolved with third-party mediation.
ii) liberate Indonesia from a quagmire of damaging allegations about its foundations in West Papua, and its compulsion to run military operations alongside social-development programs; and enable Indonesia to comply with its own constitution which recognizes the inalienable right of nations to self-determination and independence.
iii) enable Australia and New Zealand to recognize West Papua as a geo-political entity separate to Indonesia without necessarily recalibrating their commercial and security arrangements with the Indonesian Republic.
Such a motion is critical because the number of indigenous West Papuans has dropped from 99% of the population (in 1962) to 47% (in 2010), with an annual growth rate of 1.8% (the Non-Papuan rate is 10.8%); and Indonesia’s occupation of West Papua has been a chronic thorn in relations between Australia and Indonesia as well as the Pacific, Caribbean and African States pursuing their legal and ethical responsibilities.
Note 1. Australia voted for the UN-auspiced New York Agreement (1962-1969) that transferred the administration of West Papua from the Netherlands to Indonesia, despite the Menzies Government’s belief that Indonesia’s claim of sovereignty should be arbitrated by the International Court of Justice. (UNGA 1127th Plenary, 21 Sept 1962). The Agreement’s concluding act-of-free-choice in 1969 was not an act of self-determination but an involuntary response by 0.1% of the population to a script written by the Indonesian government.
Note 2. Indonesia rendered West Papua an ‘Autonomous’ province in 1969. During ‘special’ Autonomy 2001—2021 it partitioned the territory into two provinces, which trebled the number of regencies from 14 to 41 each with a pre-scribed level of military personnel and hardware. Since the imposition of Special Autonomy 2021-2045 Jakarta has passed legislation to further partition the territory. In December 2018 the Indonesian Parliament declared war on the West Papua Liberation Army and the Airforce dropped bombs of the banned chemical white phosphorous on a number of highland villages. The government then banned local churches and NGOs from helping the villagers with emergency food, water and medicine.
Note 3. On 1 December 2020 the United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP) established a West Papua Transitional Government for the people of a richly endowed sovereign state (that has a defined territory and permanent population, and capacity to enter into relations with other states). Like the ULMWP this Government is accountable to the people’s key political organisations—the Federal Republic of West Papua, Coalition for the Liberation of West Papua and West Papua National Parliament—and to their Tribal Councils and the WP Council of Churches. The parliamentary system has a President and Prime Minister, 12 Cabinet Ministers of working bureaucracies, as well as Governors of the territory’s seven states. President Benny Wenda told media at the 2021 UN Climate Summit in Glasgow “We have a constitution, government, cabinet, and NOW a Green State policy framework to restore balance between the human and non-humans in our homeland”.
West Papua now has the support of the Pacific Islands Forum (18 UN member-states, including Australia and New Zealand); the African Caribbean Pacific Group (79 UN states); the European Union, and the Parliaments of the UK, Poland, the Netherlands and Spain. Vanuatu is the state’s legal sponsor to the United Nations. All of this support may mean that Indonesia has squandered its opportunities to negotiate directly with the West Papuans and will now have to suffer exposure of its brutal occupation during international mediation of the long-standing conflict.
Photo: Tommy Latupeirissa, Honiara 2015