MSG chair postpones PNG leg of Melanesia tour

The chairperson of the Melanesian Spearhead Group, Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare has postponed the PNG leg of his Melanesia tour.

Manasseh Sogavare
Manasseh Sogavare Photo: RNZI


The tour, his second as chairperson, is to discuss the restructuring of the MSG Secretariat in Vanuatu and the revision of MSG Membership Guidelines with other MSG leaders.

Earlier this week Mr Sogavare met with his Vanuatu counterpart, Charlot Salwai in Port Vila and also with FLNKS spokesperson Victor Tutugoro.

Today he is to meet with the Fiji’s Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama in Suva.

The Fiji Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama at Government House in Auckland
Fiji’s Prime Minister, Frank Bainimarama. Photo: RNZ/ALEX PERROTTET

Following that meeting Mr Sogavare was supposed to fly to Port Moresby to meet with PNG’s prime minister Peter O’Neill.

But this leg of the tour has now been postponed until February.

Mr Sogavare, who flys back to Solomon Islands on Sunday, said he would not be releasing a statement on the outcome of the tour until he completes the PNG leg in February.

The MSG secretariat in Port Vila has been plaqued by issues with funding and its overhaul was recommended by an independent review commissioned because of persistent funding problems and the review of membership guidelines has arisen over the issue of West Papuan membership to the Melanesian Spearhead group.

Solomon Islands and Vanuatu favour West Papuan Membership while Fiji and Papua New Guinea support Indonesia’s view that it should represent West Papuan interests in the group.


State urged to do more for West Papuans

humanitarianTheNational – THE Government has been urged to do more about the plight of West Papuans and to assist them obtain full membership of the Melanesian Spearhead Group.

National Capital District Governor Powes Parkop made the call while celebrating the International Humanitarian Day with the West Papuan refugees at Vabukori in the National Capital District on Saturday.

“I call on our people and our Government not to abandon the West Papua people,” he said.

“Let us be brave and allow moral righteousness to prevail by allowing West Papuans to full membership of the Melanesian Spearhead Group.”

Prime Minister Peter O’Neill in May said PNG was concerned about what was happening in West Papua and expressed this directly to Indonesian President Joko Widodo.

He said West Papuans were welcomed in PNG.

“We are equally concerned about what is happening in West Papua,” O’Neill said.

“We have expressed that directly to the highest authority, including the president (Widodo), this year, particularly the human rights issue and for autonomy.”

Parkop said a humanitarian right issue facing PNG was the denial of the West Papuan people to properly and legally exercise their rights to self determination.

“These are fundamental human rights  expressed clearly in the United Nations  Human Rights Charter,” he said.

PNG Opposition Plans New Move Against PM

Pasifik.News – The Papua New Guinea Opposition says it is still determined to remove Peter O’Neill as Prime Minister before the next election, despite failing in its motion of no-confidence.

Parliament last week voted overwhelmingly to keep Mr O’Neill in the job, 85 to 21.

But Opposition spokesman Wanpis Ako says people are demanding change. “We will push for another vote of no-confidence without naming an alternative Prime Minister when parliament resumes on August 9,” he told Pasifik News.

That would be inside the one-year grace period protecting the Government from no-confidence motions, but the Opposition believes it can still push for a caretaker leader.

It also intends to take legal action against the Speaker and Parliamentary Clerk for not allowing more MPs to debate last week’s motion.

But the Prime Minister says it’s time to get on with business.

“Despite the political events of the past two weeks, and recent disquiet in some sections of the community, matters have all culminated with the vote in the Parliament and this has been resolved decisively,” Mr O’Neill said.

It may not be that simple. Apart from the Opposition, some community groups are still pushing for him to step down and face questioning over allegations of corruption.

On his Facebook wall, the Secretary of the National Doctors’ Association Sam Yockopua insisted their action is not in breach of PNG law. “It is instead civil disobedience exercised as concerned professional citizens, which is allowed for, acting to display their conscience using their democratic and constitutional rights,” he wrote.

Mr O’Neill will soon unveil a new ministerial line-up made necessary by the defection of some MPs.
“The new lineup will place our Government in an even stronger position to communicate with relevant parties and resolve outstanding issues,” he said.

Vote of No Confidence Defeated

EMTV – 22/07/2016 Serah Aupong

The Vote of No Confidence has been defeated with an overwhelming 85 to 21 votes in favour of Peter O’Neill as Prime Minister in today’s special parliament sitting.

The opposition came into the chamber knowing they didn’t have the numbers to win but used the opportunity to air their frustrations against the Prime Minister.

At the end of the session, the opposition left disappointed not only at losing the vote but in what they claim as suppression to fully debate the motion.

The government did what they promised, hold together and defeat the Vote of No Confidence. However before the vote was taken, there was over an hour of heated debate which included pointing of fingers, out of order point of orders and swearing.

Keeping with the specifics of the court order, the speaker allowed debate before the vote was taken. Sam Basil as sponsor of the motion outlined the opposition’s reasons for the motion which included, the lack of debate of the 2016 budget, implementation of the Independent Commission Against Corruption, the Paraka payment issue, disbanding of taskforce sweep and the LNG revenue.

Then Kelly Naru, who had declared allegiance to the rule of law during the week of lobbying, outlined legal reasons for siding with O’Neill.

Following this, Kavieng member Ben Micah talked about telling the truth where he accused members of parliament of not taking into consideration the truth about issues that affect the nation.

From the government, leader of Government Business and Finance Minister, James Marape, was the only one who spoke formally during the debate.

He said the motion was “hollow” and was used to cause instability and chaos. He said the government has delivered on 90 per cent of its promises.

Towards the end of Marape’s speech, the speaker stopped debate and moved to take the vote.

This did not go down well with the opposition who still had plenty more to say.

Member for Vanimo Green, Belden Namah, accused the speaker of hijacking the parliament procedure.

His refusal to sit down, and the ensuring screaming match that followed from both sides of the house. In an attempt to restore order on the floor of parliament, the speaker stood up. According to parliamentary standing orders, when the speaker stands all members are to sit down.

After reminding the house of that standing order, the parliament quietened down and the vote was taken.

BREAKING: O’Neill Survives Vote of No Confidence

EMTV – 22/07/2016 Scott Waide 1586

The PNC led coalition of Prime Minister, Peter O’Neill, has defeated a long awaited Vote of No Confidence motion, with 85 out of 106 members voting in favour of the government while 21 members of the opposition voted for the removal of the Prime Minister.

In a highly anticipated session peppered with personal accusations, colourful language and sarcasm delivered by both sides, the debate prior to the vote degenerated into a cacophony of yelling and more accusations.

Vanimo-Green MP, Belden Namah, expressed annoyance at the speaker saying adequate debate had not been allowed.

The disorder in the house forced the speaker to rise from his chair, as per parliamentary standing order 49, to call for order.

Earlier, the debate was opened by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, Sam Basil. In a series of pointed statements he attacked the Prime Minister over his handling of the economy, LNG revenue and the allegations levelled against him.

“LNG revenues aren’t reaching our shores. Businesses owed money by government aren’t being paid,” he said.

In response to the opposition debate, Finance Minister, James Marape, told the house that ongoing attempts for the Vote of No Confidence had affected Papua New Guinea’s international image.

“Investor confidence has been impacted by headlines on the media and social media,” Marape said.

Marape’s statements come on the back of a statement by the Prime Minister yesterday, calling for stability in government.

Government numbers now remain solid with less than 10 months to go until national elections.

PM takes courageous stand

The National, Friday May 27th, 2016

PRIME Minister Peter O’Neill has reaffirmed his bold and courageous stand on the West Papua issue.

Last year, he became the first PNG Prime Minister to break the National Government’s silence on this sensitive issue since independence.

In his historic statement during the 2015 National Leaders’ Summit in Port Moresby, O’Neill said Papua New Guinea had become a respected regional leader but had not spoken about the human rights issues across its common border with Indonesia.

“I think, as a country, time has come for us to speak about the oppression of our people there. Pictures of brutality of our people appear daily on the social media, and yet, we take no notice. We have the moral obligation to speak for those who are not allowed to talk. We must be the eyes for those who are blindfolded.”

And this week, O’Neill revealed during a radio talkback show that the Government had expressed concerns about human rights issues in West Papua and their desire for autonomy to the Indonesian authorities, including President Joko Widodo.

“We have just returned from the Pacific Islands Forum leaders’ meeting that Papua New Guinea chairs and we have written to the president (Widodo) expressing that we want to send a team to West Papua to engage directly with the people. The response we are getting from Indonesia is that they welcome such a dialogue and also they are positive about the desire for West Papua to have some more autonomy,”

O’Neill told listeners.

We commend the Prime Minister for his bold initiative to establish dialogue with Indonesia on this sensitive issue, which all his predecessors had ignored for fear of upsetting our giant neighbour.
Our citizens can be rest-assured that we now have a Prime Minister who will not shirk his moral obligation to our Melanesia brothers and sisters across the border.

O’Neill’s stance has been enthusiastically welcomed by local, regional and international supporters and sympathisers of West Papuan freedom and self-autonomy.

For the younger generation of Papua New Guineans who are not familiar with the “Papua Conflict”, it is an ongoing low-level conflict between the Indonesian government and portions of the indigenous population of West Papua.

Since the withdrawal of the Dutch colonial administration from the Netherlands New Guinea in 1962, the implementation of Indonesian governance in 1963 and the formal absorption of West Papua into Indonesia in 1969, the Free Papua Movement (OPM), a militant Papuan-independence organisation, has conducted a low-level guerrilla war against the Indonesian state, targeting the Indonesian military and police, as well as engaging in the kidnapping of both non-Papuan Indonesian settlers and foreigners.

West Papuans have conducted various protests and flag-raising ceremonies for independence or federation with Papua New Guinea, and accuse the Indonesian government of indiscriminate violence and of suppressing their freedom of expression. Many West Papuans have been killed by the Indonesian military since 1969 and the Indonesian governance style has been compared to that of a police state, suppressing freedom of political association and political expression.

The Indonesian government restricts foreign access to West Papua due to sensitivities regarding its suppression of Papuan nationalism.

The Indonesian government is accused of human rights abuses, such as attacks on OPM-sympathetic civilians and jailing people who raise the West Papuan National Morning Star flag for treason.

Through the transmigration programme, which since 1969 includes migration to Papua, about half of the 2.4 million inhabitants of Indonesian Papua are born in Java, though intermarriage is increasing and the offspring of transmigrants have come to see themselves as “Papuan” over their parents’ ethnic group. As of 2010, 13,500 Papuan refugees live in exile in PNG and occasionally the fighting spills over the border.

As a result, the PNG Defence Force has set up patrols along the western border to prevent infiltration by the OPM. Additionally, the PNG Government has been expelling resident “border crossers” and making a pledge of no anti-Indonesian activity a condition for migrants’ stay in PNG. Since the late 1970s, the OPM have made retaliatory “threats against PNG business projects and politicians for the PNGDF’s operations against the OPM”.

The PNGDF has performed joint border patrols with Indonesia since the 1980s, although its operations against the OPM are parallel.

PNG Restates Wet Papua Concerns

11:39 am on 26 May 2016

Papua New Guinea’s prime minister says his government is concerned about what is happening in West Papua and has expressed this directly to Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo.

Peter O’Neill made the comment on FM100’s radio talk back show while responding to questions from the public about West Papua.

Papua New Guinea's Prime Minister, Peter O'Neill.
Papua New Guinea’s Prime Minister, Peter O’Neill. Photo: PNG PM’s office


The prime minister has previously spoken of the need for PNG to speak out about ongoing human rights abuses in his country’s neighbouring territory.

On talkback yesterday, Mr O’Neill indicated West Papuans were welcome in PNG.

“We are equally concerned about what is happening in West Papua,” he said.

“We have expressed that directly to the highest authority including the President this year particularly the human rights issue and for autonomy.”

The prime minister said that as chair of the Pacific Islands Forum, PNG had written to President Widodo, requesting to send a fact-finding team of Pacific Island leaders to West Papua to talk directly with the people themselves.

“The response we received from Indonesia is they welcome such a dialogue and appreciative of our desire for West Papua have some more autonomy, whether that will be self-determination or not is something that can be worked on towards,” he said.

The prime minister’s comments follow criticism by the chairman of the Melanesian Spearhead Group, Manasseh Sogavare, that Indonesia has failed to respond to requests for engagement over Papua by both the Pacific Forum and the MSG.

After their special summit scheduled for Port Vila earlier this month was postponed, MSG leaders were now expected to meet in Port Moresby in coming days.

Port Moresby meeting

The MSG leaders meeting is expected to coincide with a summit of the African Carribean and Pacific Group that PNG is hosting.

“So I am aware we will have an MSG side meeting at the weekend,” Mr O’Neill is reported in the Post Courier as saying, “and some of the issues will be brought up during the ACP summit which is coming up next week.”

Vanuatu’s Daily Post newspaper reports that the country’s Prime Minister Charlot Salwai and his Foreign Minister Bruno Leingkone will be attending.

Mr Salwai has clearly stated his government’s support for the United Liberation Movement of West Papua’s bid for full membership in the MSG.

Indonesia is also seeking full membership, although Mr Salwai is also proposing that Indonesia’s current associate membership in the group be cancelled.

O’Niell Speaks Out on West Papua

Papua New Guinea’s Prime Minister Peter O’Neill did something remarkable last Thursday. In a wide-ranging policy speech at a leadership summit in Port Moresby, he acknowledged the oppression of the people of West Papua. It was the first time an incumbent prime minister of Papua New Guinea has spoken directly about the rights of West Papuans in a public forum:

Papua New Guinea today is a respected regional leader. After 40 years of undisturbed democracy, we are in a unique position to lead mature discussions on issues affecting our people in the region.

Our leading role in encouraging Fiji to return to a democratically elected government and voicing our concerns about the plight of our people in New Caledonia are examples of our growing influence. We have also participated in the restoration of democracy and law and order in countries like Vanuatu and Solomon Islands.

But sometimes we forgot our family, our brothers and sisters, especially those in West Papua.

I think as a country the time has come for us to speak about oppression our people. Pictures of brutality of our people appear daily on social media and yet we take no notice. We have the moral obligation to speak for those who are not allowed to talk. We must be the eyes for those who are blindfolded. Again, Papua New Guinea, as a regional leader, we must lead these discussions with our friends in a mature and engaging manner.

O’Neill was careful not to refer to independence or greater autonomy for West Papua. He also made no reference to the latest attempt by West Papuan independence groups to seek membership of the Melanesian Spearhead Group. But significantly, he referred to West Papuans as ‘family’, ‘brothers and sisters’ and ‘our people.’ This is not quite the same as questioning the sovereignty of Indonesia over West Papua but is a radical departure from previous language. It is notable that in the year that Papua New Guinea celebrates 40 years of independence from colonial rule, the Prime Minister of the most populous Melanesian state has sought to identify with Melanesian populations which are not yet independent – in New Caledonia and in West Papua.

Interestingly, O’Neill indicated he was concerned about the pictures of brutality appearing on social media. If his decision to speak out now was even in part inspired by the images of human rights abuses posted by supporters of West Papua on Facebook and Twitter, this is a breakthrough moment for the influence of activists who use social media for political advocacy in Papua New Guinea. Indeed, those who post pictures on social media of brutality that women experience in Papua New Guinea will hope the Prime Minister may be paying attention to them too.

O’Neill’s remarks will be a blow to Jakarta (see here for comments from Indonesia’s Human Rights Commissioner). Indonesia has been working hard to court Melanesian states and has attended Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) meetings as an observer as part of efforts to dissuade the MSG from admitting the West Papuan independence movement as a member. The then Indonesian president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono was the guest of honour at Fiji’s Pacific Islands Development Forum meeting in Fiji last year, demonstrating the importance Indonesia attaches to influencing Melanesian countries.

Although the PNG Government has long carefully managed its relationship with Indonesia and avoided public statements on West Papua, there is much support in the PNG community and among a number of MPs for the West Papuan independence movement. Papua New Guinea’s capacity to drive international action on a human rights issues is unproven, but O’Neill will now come under domestic pressure to follow through on his statement. The decision by Indonesia’s Foreign Ministry to establish a special working group to ‘handle developments and issues relating to Papua’ might offer a window for closer engagement with Papua New Guinea on human rights issues.

O’Neill’s remarks will have surprised others in the region. O’Neill has been at odds with with Fiji’s Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama over a range of issues, including Fiji’s desire to reform regional diplomatic architecture. O’Neill’s statement on West Papuan human rights may now leave Fiji as an outlier within the Melanesia Spearhead Group; Vanuatu and Solomon Islands are supporters of West Papuan independence but Bainimarama has been reluctant to endorse West Papuan demands. At a time when Fiji’s government is seeking to reclaim regional leadership at the expense of Papua New Guinea’s ambitions, this will unnerve Fiji.

The move also wrong-foots Canberra. It would be naïve to imagine Canberra can comfortably stay neutral on this issue. Australia wants a stable relationship between its two nearest neighbours and therefore has an interest in averting tensions over West Papua. The Australian Government’s position in relation to West Papuan lobbying efforts has always been that it supports the sovereignty of Indonesia over the provinces of Papua and West Papua, a position shared by the Papua New Guinea Government.

Australia has also been supportive of Papua New Guinea assuming a more significant regional leadership role, consistent with the size of its population, its economy and its potential for growth. Papua New Guinea is a country of some 7 million people and its economy, the largest of the Pacific Island countries, is forecast to grow by 15% in 2015, more than any other country in the world. Canberra can hardly complain if Peter O’Neill has determined that PNG will stand a better chance of recognition as a regional leader if he stands up for the rights of West Papuans. But in so doing, he has changed regional dynamics in the Pacific, probably made them even more difficult for Australia to attempt to manage and may even add to pressure on Australia to act.

Papua New Guinea will host the Pacific Islands Forum leaders’ summit this year. The Forum has avoided recognition of West Papua issues in its official pronouncements but discussion this year could be quite different if PNG, this year’s chair, campaigns for it.

This article was first published by the Lowy Interpreter 

PNG Prime Minister’s Indonesia visit raises questions over West Papua stance


Spearhead Group (MSG) meets in New Caledonia to decide if the West Papua National Coalition for Liberation will be granted membership.

The timing of O’Neill’s Indonesia visit has raised questions on Papua New Guinea’s support for West Papua, Radio New Zealand International reports.

O’Neill has stated that West Papua is an integral part of Indonesia, but has voiced concern about human rights abuses in West Papua.

Several reports detail torture and abuses against pro-independence activists in West Papua.

Border issues include people from West Papua fleeing to Papua New Guinea.

O’Neill said he looks forward to discussing these issues with Yodhoyono.

“We are encouraged by the invitation from the Indonesian Government, through the president, for the first time in its history asking Papua New Guinea to help in some of those issues in West Papua,” he said.

The decision to include the West Papua National Coalition for Liberation in the MSG has received strong support ahead of the upcoming summit with the exception of Papua New Guinea.

Decisions in the MSG are usually reached by consensus. If Indonesia succeeds in lobbying Papua New Guinea, it might persuade the country to refrain from supporting West Papuan inclusion in the MSG, according Radio New Zealand International.

The president of the self-styled republic of West Papua, Forkorus Yaboisembut, made an appeal to MSG, the Pacific Islands Forum and the African, Pacific and Caribbean group of states to recognise his country almost three weeks ago

PNG Supporting West Papua’s Indepencence  Melanesian support for a free West Papua has always been high. Travel throughout Papua New Guinea and you will often hear people say that West Papua and Papua New Guinea is ‘wanpela graun’ – one land – and that West Papuans on the other side of the border are family and kin.

In the Solomon Islands, Kanaky, Fiji and especially Vanuatu, people will tell you that “Melanesia is not free until West Papua is free”. This was the promise that the late Father Walter Lini, Vanuatu’s first prime minister made.

Ordinary people in this part of the Pacific are painfully aware that the West Papuan people continue to live under the gun. It is the politicians in Melanesia who have been slow to take up the cause.

But that may be changing.

Earlier this month, Powes Parkop, Governor of the Papua New Guinea’s National Capital District, nailed his colours firmly to the mast.

In front of a crowd of 3000 people, Governor Parkop insisted that “there is no historical, legal, religious, or moral justification for Indonesia’s occupation of West Papua”.

Turning to welcome West Papuan independence leader Benny Wenda, who was in Papua New Guinea as part of a global tour, the governor told Wenda that while he was in Papua New Guinea “no one will arrest you, no one will stop you, and you can feel free to say what you want to say”.

These are basic rights denied to West Papuans who continue to be arrested, tortured and killed simply because of the colour of their skin.

Governor Parkop, who is a member of the International Parliamentarians for West Papua, which now has representatives in 56 countries, then went on to formerly launch the free West Papua campaign.

He promised to open an office, fly the Morning Star flag from City Hall and pledged his support for a Melanesian tour of musicians for a free West Papua.

Governor Parkop is no longer a lone voice in Melanesia calling for change.

Last year, Papua New Guinea’s Prime Minister Peter O’Neill broke with tradition and publicly admonished the Indonesian government’s response to ongoing state violence, human rights violations and failure of governance in West Papua.

Moved by 4000 women from the Lutheran Church. O’Neill said he would raise human rights concerns in the troubled territory with the Indonesian government.

Now Governor Parkop wants to accompany the Prime Minister on his visits to Indonesia “to present his idea to Indonesia on how to solve West Papuan conflict once and for all.”

Well known PNG commentator Emmanuel Narakobi remarked on his blog that Parkop’s multi-pronged proposal for how to mobilise public opinion in PNG around West Papua “is perhaps the first time I’ve heard an actual plan on how to tackle this issue (of West Papua)”.

On talk back radio, Governor Parkop accused Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr of not taking the issue of West Papua seriously, of “sweeping it under the carpet.”

In Vanuatu, opposition parties, the Malvatumari National Council of Chiefs and the Anglican bishop of Vanuatu, Rev James Ligo are all urging the current Vanuatu government to change their position on West Papua.

Rev Ligo was at the recent Pacific Council of Churches in Honiara, Solomon Islands, which passed a resolution urging the World Council of Churches to pressure the United Nations to send a monitoring team to Indonesia’s Papua region.

“We know that Vanuatu has taken a side-step on that (the West Papua issue) and we know that our government supported Indonesia’s observer status on the MSG, we know that.

“But again, we also believe that as churches we have the right to advocate and continue to remind our countries and our leaders to be concerned about our West Papuan brothers and sisters who are suffering every day.”

In Kanaky (New Caledonia) and the Solomon Islands, West Papua solidarity groups have been set up. Some local parliamentarians have joined the ranks of International Parliamentarians for West Papua.

In Fiji, church leaders and NGO activists are quietly placing their support behind the cause even while Frank Bainimarama and Fiji’s military government open their arms to closer ties with the Indonesian military.

This internationalisation of the West Papua issue is Indonesia’s worst nightmare; it follows the same trajectory as East Timor.

The West Papuans themselves are also organising, not just inside the country where moral outrage against ongoing Indonesian state violence continues to boil, but regionally as well.

Prior to Benny Wenda’s visit to Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu-based representatives from the West Papua National Coalition for Independence formerly applied for observer status at this year’s Melanesian Spearhead Group meeting due to be held in Noumea, New Caledonia in June, home to another long running Melanesian self-determination struggle.

While in Vanuatu Benny Wenda added his support to that move, calling on Papuans from different resistance organisations to back a “shared agenda for freedom”.

A decision about whether West Papua will be granted observer status at this year’s MSG meeting will be made soon.

In Australia, Bob Carr may be trying to pour cold water on growing public support for a free West Papua but in Melanesia the tide is moving in the opposite direction.


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