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West Papua independence movement re-submits for full MSG membership

December 7, 2021
West Papua independence movement re-submits for full MSG membership
An application by the United Liberation Movement of West Papua to become a full member of Melanesian Spearhead Group has been re-activated.
Last year, the ULMWP announced itself as a provisional government in exile for West Papua, as it pushes for a referendum on independence from Indonesia.

The acting Director-General of the Melanesian Spearhead Group, George Hoa’au (left) receives a contribution to the MSG Secretariat from the ULMWP representative Freddie Waromi. Photo: MSG Secretariat

Several years ago, the ULMWP applied for full membership status at the sub-regional grouping whose full members are Papua New Guinea, Fiji, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and New Caledonia’s FLNKS Kanaks movement.
However its official representative in Vanuatu, Frederick Waromi, said he has had to re-submit the ULMWP’s application, after their earlier file went missing.
The file disappeared while Yamena Yauvoli from Fiji was the director general of the MSG secretariat.
Vanuatu’s Prime Minister Bob Loughman is about to assume chairmanship of the MSG and it has been suggested this would be the right time to admit the ULMWP as a full member.
The strong support that successive governments in Vanuatu have given West Papuans’ self-determination aspirations was mentioned during the recent speech of the Interim President of Provincial government of ULMWP, Benny Wenda, on West Papua Day, 1st December, the anniversary of the former Dutch New Guinea’s declaration of independence in 1961.
Wenda said that with Vanuatu’s help, the movement had made tremendous progress since its inception in 2014 in an historic unification summit of all the various main West Papuan political groupings hosted in Port Vila.
A year after the summit, the ULMWP was granted gained observer status in the MSG, a breakthrough in regional recognition of the West Papuan independence movement.

In 2019, 18 countries in the Pacific Islands Forum and 81 countries in the Organization of African, Caribbean, and Pacific States recognised the West Papuan struggle and called for the United Nations High Commissioner for the Human Rights to be allowed into West Papua.
"We continue to support Vanuatu and other Pacific states to get the resolutions at the Human Rights Council and UN General Assembly," Wenda said during his official West Papua Day speech last week.
He said it was time for the people of Indonesia to recognise their struggle and their right to form an independent nation just like them from Dutch colonialism years ago.
Wenda said he guaranteed Indonesians who were currently living in West Papua that it was their home too.
"I am asking Indonesia government to recognise our call to peacefully end this. We don’t want to see any bloodshed anymore. That is why we are now coming together to form this provisional government.
"You don’t need to worry about independent West Papua. We will be a peaceful neighbour for a long time to come.
"We are asking peacefully, not with the bullet, not with the bomb or bloodshed but through a peaceful international mechanism," said Wenda.
Indonesia, which is an associate member of the MSG, opposes the ULMWP’s claim to represent West Papuans, and has ruled out holding a referendum.


2) Indonesian court delivers victory for Indigenous rights in Papua

Aljazeera 7 Dec 2021

West Papuan activists have won a landmark legal victory against the extraction of palm oil on their ancestral lands [File: Courtesy of Ambrosisus Klagilit]

Judge in West Papua Province declines to reinstate permits for palm oil companies to exploit ancestral lands.

An Indonesian court has delivered a landmark victory for Indigenous rights in a case that pitted West Papuan activists against several palm oil companies.

The Jayapura Administrative Court in West Papua Province on Tuesday ruled in favour of a district head who had revoked permits allowing more than a dozen palm oil companies to operate in Indigenous forest areas and turn them into plantations.

Johny Kamuru, head of Sorong Regency, cancelled the permits after Indigenous groups said they had not consented to the conversion of their ancestral lands into palm oil concessions and a review by the provincial government recommended they be revoked in February 2021.

Three of the companies affected took legal action against Kamaru, including PT Papua Lestari Abadi and PT Sorong Agro Sawitindo, whose bid to have their permits reinstated was rejected by the court.

Kamuru has also been sued by PT Inti Kebun Lestari in a separate, ongoing case.

Under authority granted by President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo in 2018, palm oil permit reviews are supposed to be undertaken by the Coordinating Ministry for Economic Affairs and the Ministry of Environment and Forestry. Neither ministry commented publicly on the case in Sorong.

In 2019, Jokowi issued a moratorium on the development of new palm oil estates as part of a push to end deforestation in the country. The moratorium expired in September of this year and was superseded by Indonesia’s controversial jobs creation law.

The law allows companies that have been operating illegally to apply retroactively for permits within three years and escape legal sanctions if they do so.

The land involved in the dispute belongs to the Moi people, one of more than 250 ethnic groups in Papua.

Following the ruling, Moi advocates and the head of the regional people’s representative council in Sorong celebrated in front of the local district office.

Speaking to Al Jazeera following the ruling, Ambrosisus Klagilit, advocacy coordinator for the Sorong chapter of the Indigenous Peoples’ Alliance of the Archipelago (AMAN), said he was “grateful” for the legal victory.

“This ruling is important to us Indigenous peoples because we believe it to be a just decision that assures our future and our lands. We feel protected now,” he said.

The total land covered by the three companies spans some 90,031 hectares (222,471 acres), according to Greenpeace Indonesia – an area larger than New York City.

In October, Greenpeace Indonesia released a report in conjunction with environmental mapping specialists TheTreeMap that found one-fifth of the country’s oil palm plantations were in areas where extraction is illegal, including Indigenous lands, national parks, watersheds and conservation areas designated as “national forest estate”.

Since 2000, forest estate land totalling nearly one million hectares (2,471,054 acres) has been released for plantations in Papua Province, according to Greenpeace, with “systematic violations of permitting regulations” a common occurrence.

‘Positive breakthrough’

Indonesia is the world’s largest exporter of palm oil, bringing in $5.7bn or 11 percent of the country’s annual exports. The resource is used in a slew of products, from soap to chocolate.

Indonesia exported 37.3 million tonnes of palm oil in 2020, commanding 55 percent of the global palm oil market, according to the Indonesian Palm Oil Association (GAKI).

Palm oil exports rose by 32 percent in July 2021 compared with the previous month to reach $2.8bn, according to the association.

Syahrul Fitra, a campaigner for Greenpeace Indonesia, told Al Jazeera the ruling was a major victory for Indigenous rights and environmental preservation.

“Greenpeace Indonesia has found that management of the palm oil industry is rife with problems such as intrusion into Indigenous lands, overlaps with the national forest estate and other protected areas, unprocedural permitting, and permit compliance failures,” Fitra said.

“The head of Sorong district acted correctly to redress these wrongs when he took the concrete step of cancelling a number of oil palm plantation permits, acting on a thorough review by the West Papua Provincial government in conjunction with the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK).”

Greenpeace Indonesia said it welcomed the ruling and hoped it would embolden other districts and provinces as well as the national government to support permit reviews and revocations as needed.

Wirya Supriyadi, advocacy coordinator of the Papua office of the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (WALHI), described the ruling as “a positive breakthrough” and a “victory” for the Moi peoples.


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