As the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) leaders’ summit approaches, Indonesia is stepping up its campaign of repression against West Papuans peacefully rallying for full membership of the Group.
A massive military and police presence greeted Papuans who came out onto the streets across West Papua to demand full membership. In Sorong, seven people were arrested – not while raising flags and shouting Merdeka, but simply for holding homemade placards supporting full membership. In Jayapura and Wamena, protestors were chased by security forces, beaten and dragged away into police cars. During a protest in Dogiyai, 20-year-old Yosia Keiya was summarily executed by Indonesian police while peacefully sitting on the roadside. Eyewitnesses reported seeing two police cars arrive in the vicinity and shoot Keiya without provocation. This crackdown follows the mass arrest of KNPB activists handing out leaflets supporting full membership on July 12th. But Keiya and those arrested are only the latest victims of Indonesia’s murderous occupation – single drops in an ocean of violence West Papuans have suffered since we rose up against colonial rule in 2019.
Indonesia should remember that we are both already members of the MSG, they as an Associate and the ULMWP as an observer. Melanesian leaders must ask themselves: is this how one Group member treats another? Is this how a friend to Melanesia treats Melanesians? The fact that they brought an Indonesian flag to the Melanesian Arts Festival in Port Vila, only shortly after their soldiers shot Keiya dead, is an insult. They are dancing on top of our graves.
We are entitled to campaign for full membership in virtue of Melanesian ethnicity, culture, and linguistic traditions. In all these respects, West Papua is undeniably Melanesian – not Indonesian. While Indonesia won its independence in 1945, we celebrated our own independence on December 1st 1961. Our separateness was even acknowledged by Indonesia’s first vice-President Mohammed Hatta, who argued for West Papuan self-determination on this basis.
More than anything, this crackdown shows how much West Papua needs full membership of the MSG. Right now, we are defenseless in the face of such brutal violations; only as a full member will we be able to represent ourselves and expose Indonesia’s crimes.
West Papuans are telling the world they want full membership. By coming out onto the streets with their faces painted in the colours of all the Melanesian flags, they are saying: we want to return home to our Melanesian brothers and sisters, we want to be safe. It is time for Melanesian leaders to listen.