By Charley Piringi in Honiara
The Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) has adopted a “fresh approach” in addressing the longstanding and sensitive West Papuan issue, claims Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare.
Upon his return yesterday from the United Nations General Assembly meeting in New York last week, he clarified to local media about why he had left out the West Papuan issue from his discussions at the UN.
“We have agreed during our last MSG meeting in Port Vila not to pursue independence for West Papua,” he said.
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“Pursuing independence at the MSG level has historically led to unnecessary human rights violations against the people of West Papua, as it becomes closely linked to the independence movement.”
His statement drew criticism from Opposition Leader Matthew Wale over the “about face” over West Papua, likening Sogavare to the betrayal of “Judas the Iscariot”.
Sogavare highlighted that MSG’s new strategy was involving the initiation of a dialogue with the Indonesian government.
The focus was on treating the people of West Papua as part of Melanesia and urging the government of Indonesia to respect them accordingly.
“The issue of independence and self-determination is a domestic matter that West Papua needs to address internally,” he said.
“The United Nations (C-24) has established a process allowing them the right to determine their self-determination.”
The United Nations C-24, known as the Special Committee on Decolonisation, was established in 1961 to address decolonisation issues.
This committee, a subsidiary of the UN General Assembly, is dedicated to matters related to granting independence to colonised countries and peoples.
Prime Minister Sogavare’s statements underscore the MSG’s commitment to a diplomatic approach and dialogue with Indonesia, aiming for a respectful and inclusive resolution to the West Papuan issue.
However, Opposition leader Wale expressed his disappointment with Sogavare’s statement on the right to self determination at the UN.
Sogavare had stated that Solomon Islands reaffirmed the right to self-determination as enshrined under the UN Charter.
New Caledonia, Polynesia highlighted
But while New Caledonia and French Polynesia were highlighted, Wale said it was sad that the plight of West Papua had not been included.
The opposition leader said both the FLNKS (Kanak and Socialist National Liberation Front) and West Papuans were Melanesian peoples and both desired independence.
He said West Papua had been under very oppressive “schematic and systematic Indonesian colonial rule” — far worse than anything New Caledonia had suffered.
“We are Melanesians and we should always stand hand in hand with our brothers and sisters in West Papua,” he said.
Wale said diplomacy and geopolitics should never cloud “solidarity with our Melanesian people of West Papua”.
The opposition leader said it was sad that Sogavare, who had used to be a strong supporter of the West Papuan cause, had changed face.
“The Prime Minister was once a strong supporter of West Papua, a very vocal leader against the human rights atrocities, even at the UNGA and international forums in the past.
“For sure, he has been bought for 30 pieces of silver and has clearly changed face,” Wale said.
He also reiterated his call to MSG leaders to rethink their stand on West Papua.
“The Prime Minister should have maintained Solomon Islands stand on West Papua like he used to,” Wale said.
“Sogavare is no different to Judas the Iscariot.”
Charley Piringi is editor of In-Depth Solomons. Republished with permission.