January 12, 2014
By Selpius Bobii
The Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) is an official forum to develop friendship, harmony and the sense of family between Melanesian nations, with a mind to develop peace and prosperity in the region.
The MSG Forum is in truth not only something of those Melanesian nations which already have independence, but rather it is also something of those Melanesian nations that have not yet had their sovereign independence recognised and which continue to struggle to that end.
Accordingly there exists an obligation by the members of the MSG to be ready to receive as members those Melanesian nations (peoples) that have not in the past not had that opportunity; and secondly an obligation to defend the call for independence for those Melanesian peoples struggling for recognition of their sovereignty.
This critical role of the MSG lies within the framework of upholding the commission of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights together with other international laws including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the United Nations (UN) Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. In the opening sections of each of these covenants and declarations, the right to self-determination of all indigenous peoples of the world is referred to.
The preamble of the Constitution of the MSG states the obligation of the MSG member states to defend the right to self-determination of all Melanesian peoples which have not yet received full independence. International legal determinations together with the MSG’s legal foundation, together give legitimacy to the MSG forum to defend Melanesian peoples (nations) that are struggling for full independence. Such legal determinations can on occasion however give rise to divisions within the MSG itself due to differing opinions of members and can even threaten to divide the MSG. This may arise when a non-Melanesian nation’s control and colonial domination over a certain Melanesian people is perceived to be at risk and that nation reacts accordingly, resulting in different responses from respective Melanesian nations.
There is of course a code of ethics for international association between nations (for instance the respect of another nation’s sovereignty), however notwithstanding there also needs to be a greater awareness worldwide that independence is the right of all nations of peoples on this earth. That is stated both at international law and within the very law that applies to the MSG and these laws create a legal obligation to that end. How much more important in the case of peoples whose very continued existence is threatened by the colonial power! Such is the case for the people of Papua where colonial domination by the Republic of Indonesia is leading to annihilation of the indigenous people of the land.
In the interests of mutual rights, justice and human dignity, MSG and other nations of the earth together with UN have both the legal and moral obligation to give an opportunity to those peoples (nations) in the world that have not yet received independence to have their sovereignty legally recognised. It is really urgent that the MSG, UN and other nations of the world act on this obligation such that the position of all nations of the world may be on a level plane with no one nation able to continue to colonise and dominate another. This is absolutely critical in enabling progress towards the end goal of peace and prosperity for all peoples in the world and not just for a privileged few.
It was on the basis of this international commitment and the preamble to the Constitution of the MSG, that the MSG leadership at its 19th Summit in Noumea from 17-21 June 2013 made a decision that was all important in terms of the political and humanitarian status of Papua. Their commitment in regards to the indigenous people of Papua was clearly stated in points 20/21 of the Communiqué of the MSG, which is itself a valid and legal document. That decision was binding on all members of the MSG without exception and it is the obligation of all members of the MSG to respect and act in accordance with that decision. It will give great hope and joy to not only the people of Papua but also countless others, if every leader of the MSG is able to maintain their attitude and actions such that they are in accordance with this decision of the MSG. In-keeping with that decision, to defend Papua’s sovereignty through official channels of the UN, by mediation between Papua and Indonesia and through dialogue regarding the political and legal status of Papua together with other problems.
The commitment of the MSG leadership is so closely tied to the issue of Papua and is now at the very edge and being seriously tested. The realities seen to date are that:
- There are certain members of the MSG that have not wholeheartedly respected and implemented the decision of the MSG leadership on 21 June 2013.
- There has been observed a lack of consistence of certain members of the MSG in regards to their commitment to the decision in Noumea and in fact there has been observed since that date an increase in the extent to which those particular MSG members have been working together in partnership with the State of Indonesia.
- The state of (1-2) above are a direct result of Indonesia playing its ‘two-way’ political games; of continuing to carry out a range of operations aimed at suppressing the movement and activities of the Papuan Independence Movement, whilst at the same time increasing its level of campaigning and diplomacy towards certain members of the MSG. (With Indonesia’s efforts in diplomacy have also been supported by a range of other ‘attractive offers’).
- Indonesia has also requested support of governments of other nations in this regard including both Australia and New Zealand, appealing to them to influence members of the MSG against supporting Papua’s application to the MSG.
- Indonesia did not facilitate the agreed-on visit to Jakarta and Papua by an MSG delegation of Foreign Ministers within the 6 months time deadline from 21 June 2013 in accordance with the MSG decision.
- With the 6 months limit requirement of the MSG decision now passed, Indonesia has now on 11 January 2014 facilitated the visit of a MSG foreign minister delegation to Jakarta.
- Efforts have been made by Indonesia to prevent this MSG Delegation from visiting Papua during its visit to Indonesia.
- If it eventuates that the MSG Delegation is finally allowed to visit Papua during this present visit, then it’s highly likely that the Delegation will be prevented by Indonesia from meeting with key Papuan leaders and the leaders of the different components of the Papuan Liberation Movement.
- All of the Indonesia Government’s efforts referred to above, have been made with the aim of causing Papua’s application to the MSG to fail.
At this time all peoples throughout Melanesia together with those in international solidarity, are keenly watching to see what steps and political direction will be taken by the MSG. Will the MSG maintain its earlier commitment and attitude on the Papuan issue or back down? Will Indonesia allow the Delegation to visit Papua at this time and allow them access to the key figures of the Papuan Independence Struggle including those currently imprisoned or will Indonesia block that access? Why be afraid? Is not God with us?
This article has been written from behind prison bars for the purpose of strengthening our hearts and our faith in regards to the MSG Forum. Let us remain strong and perseverant faced with this test.
Selpius Bobii is the General Chairperson of Front PEPERA & Papuan Freedom Political Detainee held in Abepura Prison, Jayapura