The Jakarta Post
Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) member nations that have often voiced concerns over alleged human rights abuses in Papua said on Wednesday they fully respected Indonesia's sovereignty.
High-ranking representatives of MSG nations made the comment after they witnessed the latest developments in the country's most remote and backward provinces of Papua and West Papua, earlier this week.
The move increased speculation the group may oppose a membership bid into the bloc by a West Papua pro-independence group, the West Papua National Coalition for Liberation (WPNCL).
President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono received the Papua New Guinea (PNG) Foreign Minister Rimbink Pato, Fiji's Ratu Inoke Kubuabola, Solomon Islands' Clay Forau Soalaoi and Yvon Faua, an envoy from the Socialist National Liberation Front (FLNKS), a pro-independence group from French-ruled New Caledonia, in a courtesy call meeting at the State Palace.
In a joint statement, Indonesia and the MSG concluded they 'supported respective sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity and the principle of non-interference in each other's internal affairs, consistent with the Charter of the United Nations'.
Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa, who attended the meeting, said the final statement produced during the visit had emphasized the fundamental principle of cooperation between Indonesia and the MSG countries.
'Mutual respect of sovereignty and territory is a fundamental principle of cooperation,' said Marty.
Melanesia is a subregion of Oceania extending from the western end of the Pacific Ocean to the Arafura Sea and eastward to Fiji.
Indonesia had invited the officials to Papua and Jakarta to receive briefings on development in Papua between Jan. 11 and 16, a move that could be seen as a way of obtaining international support for the country's sovereignty following the bid by the WPNCL.
The WPNCL is pushing for independence from Indonesia and sees membership of the MSG as a step toward international recognition, while human rights watchdogs have often criticized Indonesia for state violence against Papuans.
In June last year, an MSG summit meeting deferred the WPNCL bid by at least six months, saying it was important to engage with Indonesia.
They agreed to establish a consultation with Indonesia and welcomed the invitation to visit the country, although they also concluded that the group fully supported the rights of the people of West Papua to self-determination and mentioned concerns about human rights violations.
During Wednesday's press conference, PNG's Pato said the delegation had formed 'a definite opinion' on their findings and would forward it to the MSG leadership, who he said would then 'determine what is to be done in relation to a certain application the MSG group has received'.
Yet, the call and visit were made without the presence of Vanuatu's representative.
Several foreign media have reported that Vanuatu's absence was due to the argument that the visit would not give the delegation the opportunity to meet civil society groups in West Papua.
Vanuatu, which harbors several high-ranking Free Papua Movement (OPM) officials, has also internationalized the Papuan human rights issue by discussing it in the UN General Assembly last September.
Without revealing the reason behind Vanuatu's absence, Pato however said that Vanuatu would be informed of the results of the visit before MSG leaders reached a decision on the WPNCL membership application.
Pato also refused to reveal his recommendation. 'Unfortunately, I cannot say because I will preempt the decision of the leaders,' he said.
When asked about the human rights issue, Pato said: 'I have not seen the evidence. As I've said, we have a clear mandate and we have conducted an investigation. The report will go back to the leadership in terms of the mandate that we've come to exercise and our mission has been completed.'
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