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By Makereta Komai, PACNEWS Editor in Noumea, New Caledonia
One of the founding fathers of the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG), Grand Chief Sir Michael Somare says granting West Papuan membership of the sub-regional bloc must be done on the basis that it is a Melanesian community and not because it is a sovereign independent state.
“A not too dissimilar arrangement can be found in the Asia Pacific Economic Co-operation (APEC) where Taiwan and Hong Kong, regarded by many as part of China, participate in development with independent sovereign states.
“The point here is that MSG has to be inventive, said Sir Michael.
If, West Papua eventually becomes a ‘member’ of the MSG, it will serve as the venue for both Indonesia and West Papua to dialogue and regularly brief MSG countries on developments in West Papua, said the longest serving Papua New Guinea Prime Minister.
Speaking at the MSG Silver Jubilee celebration in Noumea today, Sir Michael had a few words of advice for West Papuan pro-independence activists.
“You need to learn to sit down and talk about your issues with Indonesia. Your leaders, chiefs and activists must discuss ways to find solutions to your problem. Your problem is an internal one and our countries have no right to interfere into sovereign issues of Indonesia.
“You should not bring your problem from your side to us because, like PNG, we have diplomatic relations with Indonesia and we share a common border, said the Grand Chief.
Sir Michael said during his days in government, Indonesia indicated that it was willing to understand and solve the problems in West Papua.
“Indonesia has appointed West Papuans as administrators and other leadership positions as it tries to explore ways to assimilate West Papuans into their society.
The head of the West Papua National Coalition for Liberation, Dr Otto Ondawame responded saying every attempt has been to hold dialogue with the Indonesians.
“We already tried in 2011 to talk with Indonesia, we wrote letters to start a peaceful dialogue but still nothing. The problem is not on our side but with the Indonesian government and its military, said Dr Ondawame.
Dr Ondawame said any peaceful dialogue with Indonesia must be made with a third party.
On what the MSG should do, even before it admits West Papua as a member, Sir Michael said MSG should invite West Papua to cultural events, sporting activities and technical skills exchange.
“West Papua after all has a significant Melanesian community, said Sir Michael.
MSG Leaders will consider the application for West Papua membership Friday.
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