By NEAL CONAN• JUL 24, 2018
Earlier this year, Hawaiʻi joined the Polynesian Leaders Group, a sub-regional organization in the Pacific modeled on the Melanesian Spearhead Group. But the MSG is having its problems and the Foreign Minister of Vanuatu now says the organization is failing.
Back in 2015, the Melanesian Spearhead Group made what may prove to be a fatal compromise. At a summit meeting in the Solomon Islands, leadership agreed to admit the United Liberation Movement of West Papua as an observer and, at the same time, raised Indonesia’s status from observer to associate.
The deal papered over a fundamental contradiction: The ULM is fighting to establish an independent state in the western half of New Guinea, land that Indonesia regards as its sovereign territory.
The three small members of the MSG side with their Melanesian cousins; the two bigger members with Indonesia and the split keeps widening.
Papua New Guinea, which occupies the eastern half of New Guinea, supports Indonesia, but, earlier this month Prime Minister Peter O’Neill fudged that. In a speech in Fiji, he urged regional countries to take the issue of West Papua to the United Nations.
On a weekend visit to Jakarta, Papua New Guinea’s Foreign Minister Rimbink Pato clarified what he called misreporting. He said Papua New Guinea’s position on West Papua has not changed and, he added, “there is no intention of changing it.”
Vanuatu is among the MSG countries that support the United Liberation Movement.
This week, Foreign Minister Ralph Regenvanu expressed his frustration and disappointment to an Australian think tank. “That consensus approach to decision making is failing in the MSG.” he told the Development Policy Centre, “Vanuatu’s been consistently saying that it’s not happy with the way decisions are made.”