SBS News June 26, 2015.
Australia’s nearest Pacific neighbours have taken the lead in trying to broker a peaceful future for Indonesia’s contested West Papuan provinces.
Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu, Solomon Islands and New Caledonia’s FLNKS took the step at the 20th Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) summit in Honiara.
Since Indonesia took over the former Dutch colony in the 1960s, there has been a brutal conflict in West Papua that is estimated to have cost hundreds-of-thousands of lives.
The MSG leaders gave the West Papuan independence movement observer status, rejecting an application for full membership.
Indonesia has been an observer since 2011 and was upgraded to associated membership at the summit.
“The leaders approved the United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP) as an observer member under the regional and international category representing West Papuans living abroad,” said Solomon Islands prime minister and MSG chair Manasseh Sogavare.
“Associate membership is accorded to Indonesia representing the five Melanesian provinces in Indonesia. I have the greatest pleasure in welcoming them.”
The West Papuans were hoping for full membership of the MSG but accept observer status as a first step.
The Indonesians will be represented at the MSG by the governors of its five Papuan provinces.
“Building a strong Melanesia in the Pacific is certainly a desire for our every member country,” said PNG prime minister Peter O’Neill.