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Former Vanuatu prime minister and group chairman raises concern

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (RNZI, March 24, 2011) - Vanuatu’s opposition leader, Edward Natapei, says he has grave concerns at the decision by the Melanesian Spearhead Group giving Indonesia observer status.

The MSG is meeting in Suva with a leaders’ summit set for next Thursday.

Mr. Natapei, who is the previous MSG chair, says making Indonesia an observer is a counterproductive move.

He says, instead, the Melanesian people of the disputed Indonesian region of Papua, who have long pushed for observer status, should be given it and eventually made full members, in the same way as the Kanaks of New Caledonia are represented.

"I would express grave concerns about this initial move to bring Indonesia in as on observer of the MSG, because that is not going to help the cause of the Melanesian people of Indonesia, the West Papuans."

Natapei says supporting New Caledonia’s Kanaks in their push for independence was a key reason for the establishment of the MSG nearly 30 years ago.

[PIR editor’s note: Meanwhile, Radio New Zealand International also reports that the West Papua National Coalition for Liberation warns that the integrity of the Melanesian Spearhead Group is at stake because allowing Asian Indonesia instead of Melanesian West Papua to sit at the table is in clear breach of the constitution and foundation principles of democracy and Melanesian solidarity. The Coalition also said that by allowing Fiji’s Commodore Frank Banimarama and his counterpart from Indonesia to control the MSG, the organization will self-destruct. It is also critical of what it calls the attempt of two military dictatorships to control Melanesian democratic countries.]

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