West Papuans voice support for MSG integration

Yesterday's demonstrations in West Papua have been described as a sign of widespread support for integration with the wider Melanesian community.

The peaceful demonstrations in the main cities of Indonesia's Papua region were attended by thousands of West Papuans under the banner of the United Liberation Movement for West Papua.

The demonstrations, voiced support for the Liberation Movement and its bid to gain full membership in the Melanesian Spearhead Group, resulted in dozens of arrests.

One of the key Papuan political groups in the Movement, the West Papua National Committee, or KNPB, was centrally involved in organising the demonstrations.

The KNPB chairman Victor Yeimo addressed the demonstration in the Papuan provincial capital, Jayapura.\The Liberation Movement which was last year granted observer status in the MSG, whose full members are Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu, Fiji, Solomon Islands and the Kanaks of New Caledonia.

Indonesia was also last year granted associate member status at the MSG and has been opposed to the Liberation Movement's participation in political representation of West Papuans.

However a West Papuan lawyer and Catholic lay women activist, Frederika Korain, said the Liberation Movement was increasingly seen as her people's representative body.

Moves to engage more with the wider Melanesian region, she said, were strongly supported.

"Papuans feel that it is very genuinely important to be part of the big Melanesian family through that organisation, so that's why the struggle to gain full membership of that regional organisation become one of the desire of all Papuans," Ms Korain said.

"That's why you can see yesterday that people went to the streets and supported the rally."

Ms Korain said last week's visit to Papua by a delegation of Catholic Bishops from PNG and Solomon Islands was the kind of regional engagement that needed to be encouraged.

Unable to meet the visiting bishops themselves, the Catholic Women group that Ms Korain belongs to delivered a statement to the bishops, describing their visit as important.

Thanking the bishops for their visit, the women pressed upon them that the conditions of life for the indigenous Papuan Catholics were in a poor state.

Radio New Zealand