The MSG Summit: an attempt for possible mediation between Indonesia and West Papua

The MSG Summit: an attempt for possible mediation between Indonesia and West Papua

From Leonie Tanggahma.

The MSG Summit: an attempt for possible mediation between Indonesia and West Papua

Noumea, Thursday, 6 June 2013 (Flash d’Océanie) - The Kanak and Socialist National Liberation Front (FLNKS which is the independence multiparty front in New Caledonia) announced this week its intention to invite representatives of the liberation movement in West Papua in an attempt to promote a beginning for mediation between this province annexed by Indonesia, the colonial power, since 1963.

Speaking on the occasion of the presentation of the program of the MSG Leaders’ Summit, Mr. Victor Tutugoro appointed by the FLNKS as representative at the Summit, said that in a spirit of conciliation, the Indonesian Consulate in New Caledonia had also been contacted.
In the immediate region, West Papua already receives support from Melanesian countries, in particular from Vanuatu, where the prospect of such an invitation has been described as "historic". On the occasion of the celebrations, regional leaders have repeatedly stressed the need for the group to return to its fundamentals, such as the defense of the independence cause of New Caledonia, but also the struggle of the Melanesian people of West Papua (a province that was annexed by Indonesia in 1963), a province which is also known as Irian Jaya.
In recent months, several episodes of violent clashes between suspected militants of the OPM liberation front and Indonesian security forces were reported, as well as unconfirmed reports of dozens of casualties.
The Indonesian authorities have categorically denied these allegations.

On 1 May 2013, during a demonstration in the province, police arrested twenty people; these arrests prompted protests from the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.
The leaders of the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu in particular (including its new Prime Minister, the francophone Moana Carcasses, who has clearly shown his support for the Papuan cause) have expressed in recent weeks their support to this cause, in the form of regional solidarity.

Papua New Guinea, the immediate neighbor of the Indonesian province (which represents the western part of the island of New Guinea, the eastern part being the Independent State of Papua New Guinea), is less explicit on the issue.

Fiji, whose current leader, Commodore Frank Bainimarama and who had begun a co-operation with Indonesia, is also less outspoken on the support of MSG in West Papua. The Fijian Ministry of Information announced in a statement that on Tuesday 4 June 2013, Bainimarama had received Djoko Suyante, the Indonesian Minister for Security Affairs, in Nadi (Fiji), on the sidelines of an international meeting on the sugar industry. The stated objective was: strengthening relations between Jakarta and Suva, including police co-operation and the fight against fires. In late May 2013, an Indonesian delegation of ten representatives of the Ministry of Public Works was in Fiji to launch co-operation in urban development.
Vanuatu, under a previous government, had also initiated a military co-operation with Indonesia.
The new Chief of the executive of Vanuatu has promised that these arrangements will be terminated.
The most advanced proponents in defense of the West Papuan cause ask that the observer (or full member) MSG status is granted to the province, according to a still to be determined formula.
Indonesia too, asks the same status, as it considers itself to be a Melanesian country because of this province.

Within the MSG itself, in recent years, another debate has resurfaced in episodes: the wish of the government of New Caledonia to replace the FLNKS as a member of the MSG.
So far, this idea has failed.
Tuesday, the FLNKS announced the highlights of the 19th summit of leaders of the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG, which includes the four Pacific states of Fiji, which holds the current Presidency, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu) and which will be held in New Caledonia from 13 to 21 June 2013, including a series of meetings with senior officials during the preceding week.

At a press conference Tuesday, the Political Bureau of the FLNKS recalled that the theme for the 19th summit was "Consolidate our Melanesian Identity for a Free and United Pacific."
This year, the MSG, originally founded in 1988 in support of the independence movement in New Caledonia, is celebrating its 25th anniversary. During these 25 years, MSG has expanded the scope of its areas of focus, widening towards topics of commercial trade, labor mobility towards a concept of a common market and free trade among member countries, under the leadership of its most advanced States such as Fiji and Papua New Guinea, who act as locomotives for this subregional union.
The opening ceremony on Wednesday 19 June 2013 is a prominent event among the highlights of the Summit, with the handover of the Presidency (provided in the last two years by Fiji) to the FLNKS.
Modeled on the annual summit of the leaders of the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF, which includes 16 states of the region, including Australia and New Zealand), the next day, the Melanesian leaders will be in "retreat mode", a term used to describe somewhat more relaxed meetings and interviews, but no less important.

On Friday 21 June 2013 the plenary session will be held at the headquarters of the General Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC), which is expected to conclude with the adoption and publication of a final statement from the leaders.
The preceding week, senior officials and Ministers of Foreign Affairs of MSG will meet outside the capital of Noumea, for preparatory meetings held respectively at the Tiéti Hotel (Poindimié) and Province des Iles Loyautés-Hotel.

On Thursday 20 June 2013, another highlight will be held at the Jean-Marie Tjibaou Cultural Center (near Noumea) with ceremonies including cultural ceremonies, marking the Silver Jubilee of the MSG.
The event was also celebrated fittingly in the four capitals of the Melanesian region during weeks which had been dedicated to this event.