The Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) has accepted the United Liberal Movement for West Papua (ULMWP) as Observer in the regional organisation on the basis that it represents West Papuans living outside West Papua.

According to international media, that was the announcement made yesterday by the MSG Chair, Solomon Islands Prime Minister, Manasseh Sogavare.

The MSG Chair also announced that Associate Membership was accorded to Indonesia who is representing "the five Melanesian provinces in Indonesia".

That was the decision of the leaders of the Melanesian Spearhead Group at the MSG Summit in Solomon Islands that ended yesterday.

Indonesia will be represented in MSG by the governors of the five provinces in West Papua.

The ULMWP application for full membership in MSG was held back.

While Vanuatu was the beacon of hope for West Papua in the world in the past, at this stage the people of Vanuatu do not know how Vanuatu voted at the MSG in the bid for ULMWP's application for full membership.

But in a statement released by the Office of the Prime Minister yesterday, it stated that the United Liberation Movement for West Papua representatives have expressed appreciation to Melanesian Spearhead Group leaders in an address to the MSG Plenary on Friday.

The Vanuatu Prime Minister, Sato Kilman, who did not attend the MSG meeting following the political situation in the country stated: “The 20th Summit ended on Friday 26th with a Plenary which also saw addresses from newly admitted Associate members Indonesia, and the United Liberation Movement for West Papua as Observers.

“In a much-anticipated communiqué which was signed by Leaders on Thursday evening at the Mendana Hotel in Honiara, among other important decisions, Leaders approved that ULMWP be admitted as an Observer to the MSG under the regional and international organizations category and representing Melanesians living abroad.

“In addition, leaders also approved that Associate membership be accorded to Indonesia who will also be representing the five Melanesian Provinces in Indonesia.

“These two decisions were arguably quite historical as well as progressive in their own right, rendering the MSG as a platform for greater dialogue between the Government of Indonesia and the ULMWP.

“In his address to the plenary on Friday morning, representative of the ULMWP expressed their appreciation to leaders for endorsing their bid for membership and for their unification under the ULMWP umbrella which was made possible under the auspices of the Government, the Chiefs, Church Leaders and people of Vanuatu.

“It is important to note that the Vanuatu Government’s strong stance, support and advocacy for self-determination for all indigenous peoples and the universal principles of human rights which all MSG members subscribe to have been instrumental in the inclusion of La Couse Kanak and now West Papua in the agenda of the MSG, and for the inclusion of the FLNKS representing the Kanak people of New Caledonia, and now ULMWP the people of West Papua.

“To that end, the Vanuatu Government wishes to congratulate both the United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP) and the Government of Indonesia for choosing the MSG as a conduit or platform whereupon they may dialogue and in reconciling any differences.

“The spirit of the MSG and the Melanesian way encourages closer dialogue cooperation and the spirit of comradeship and collegiality and in a reconciliatory manner than confrontational.

“Leaders of the MSG, including Vanuatu, therefore encourage the ULMWP and the Government of Indonesia to make the most the space and opportunity rendered by their inclusion in the MSG for dialogue and in a reconciliatory and progressive manner.

“This is a position which the Government of the day will rally behind and support to be more pragmatic and progressive, as opposed to a confrontational approach.

“The 20th MSG Leaders’ Summit also saw the signing of a myriad of documents and declarations which included, the Agreement Establishing the MSG (Revised 2015), the Declaration on the MSG 2038 Property for All Plan and implementation Framework. Agreement Establishing the Regional Police Academy (RPA), Legislative Framework Agreement of the Formed Police Unit (FPU), Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on the Humanitarian and Emergency Response Cooperation Center (HERCC), Melanesian Declaration on the Transshipment of Nuclear Waste and Trans-boundary Movement of Hazardous Waste (previously the 1995 Lakatoro Declaration on Denuclearization on the Pacific), Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on Technical Cooperation in Coastal and Aquaculture Development between members of the MSG, and the MSG Roadmap for inshore Fisheries Management and Sustainable Development.

“The leaders also considered and endorsed a paper on Recovery Support for Vanuatu in the aftermath of Tropical Cyclone Pam which would comprise pledges of support in areas identified in the recently concluded National Recovery Plan, and on a bilateral basis ,” the statement ended and signed by the Vanuatu Prime Minister Sato Kilman.

Meanwhile, the Chairman of the Vanuatu Christian Council, Bishop James Ligo, told the Daily Post that the VCC accepts the decision by the MSG leaders in granting West Papua an Observer status in the MSG as a first step.

At the same time he questions the granting of Associate Member to Indonesia.

However, the VCC Chairman said, the VCC will continue to put pressure on the MSG for eventual full membership of West Papua under ULMWP into the MSG.

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