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Indonesia Rejects Separatism, Benny Wenda’s Efforts Fail at the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) Summit


The rejection of full membership of the United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP) at the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) Summit which took place on 23-24 August in Port Vila, Vanuatu was an important diplomatic victory achieved by Indonesia. This decision shows that Melanesian and Pacific countries recognize Indonesia’s sovereignty over Papua and reject separatist efforts led by Benny Wenda.

Considering his status as an observer when Benny Wenda wanted to deliver a statement at the MSG Summit, the Indonesian Delegation chose to “walk out”, because it was certain that the content of the separatist figure’s statement was full of rhetoric and provocation.

An observer of strategic and global issues, Prof Imron Cotan, explained that this rejection was caused by a paradigm shift among Melanesian countries. First, MSG countries see Indonesia as a large country which is currently not only a leader in the sub-region, but also occupies a respected place in the international arena.

“Indonesia is a leader in the ASEAN regional organization, ASEAN+10 (talking partners), ASEAN+3 (South Korea, Japan, China), G20, and is also a regular guest at the G7 forum. “Indonesia’s economic and political role can no longer be ignored,” said Prof Imron in the Moya Institute national webinar, Friday (22/9/2023).

Second, continued Prof. Imron, for MSG members, confrontation with Indonesia resulted in absolutely nothing. Today, their leaders are thinking about taking more advantage of Indonesia’s enormous political and economic influence, which has exceeded 1 trillion US dollars. “They even expressed their aspirations, related to the issue of climate change and rising sea levels, in global forums such as the G7,” he said.

On the other hand, Prof. Imron explained, there is a common understanding at the world level, especially after Covid-19, that all nations must work together according to existing rules (rules-based) to overcome challenges.

“So they also began to realize that they could not accept ULMWP as a permanent member of the MSG because it was not a sovereign state entity, apart from being counterproductive in the context of cooperation with Indonesia. “The definition of a sovereign state is contained in the 1933 Montevideo Convention which requires that a region can only be called a sovereign state if it controls an area within certain boundaries, has a people, and is able to establish international relations with other countries,” explained Imron.

Chairman of the Papua Deliberative Body, Willem Frans Ansanay, said that the rejection of ULMWP membership was a victory for Indonesia and contributed to stability in the Pacific region. Therefore, Indonesia must continue its efforts to build and improve the welfare of the Papuan people.

According to Frans, Indonesia has taken a comprehensive approach by emphasizing the importance of dialogue and development in Papua, as well as upholding law and human rights. Thus, whatever movements Benny Wenda and his group carry out in the future will not achieve their goals. “Because we too, Papuans, are not part of the ULMWP. “It’s just a small group that emerged because of hurt feelings,” he said.

Reform politician, Mahfudz Siddiq, said that Benny Wenda’s maneuver was only a small ripple. Even so, the Indonesian government must handle this issue carefully because the Papua issue is not just a domestic problem, but has become an international issue. “If handled incorrectly, it will backfire and create new problems. “As we know, we entered the MSG forum because we know there are external parties involved in the Papua issue,” he said.

Mahfudz suggested that Indonesia improve diplomatic relations with Melanesian countries. Apart from that, it also takes a cultural approach, considering that Indonesia is a country that has the largest Melanesian ethnicity in the world. “We have the honor to develop Melanesian culture. “This cultural approach is part of soft diplomacy,” he said.

An international relations observer from Padjadjaran University, Prof. Teuku Rezasyah, said that the Indonesian government must eliminate all efforts made by Benny Wenda, both in Papua and internationally. According to him, Indonesia also needs to build close cooperation and understanding with countries that pay particular attention to Papua, such as Australia, New Zealand, the United States, China, Vanuatu and the European Union. “Strengthening the education sector and human resources, as well as meritocracy-based recruitment are the keys to Indonesia’s success in overcoming the Papua issue,” he explained.

Executive Director of the Moya Institute, Hery Sucipto, said, ULMWP is an organization supported by forces that have an interest in destabilizing Indonesia. Refusal of ULMWP membership will help prevent these destabilization efforts.

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