28 August 2013

Univ. of the West Indies Jamaica to offer course on reparations for slavery

UWI Mona campus to offer course on reparation for Caribbean slavery

Caribbean Media Corporation

imageThe course is being designed by lecturer in the Department of Government in Political Philosophy and Culture, Dr. Clinton Hutton, who said the curriculum will examine the argument for reparation within a historical context. (File photo)

KINGSTON, Jamaica, Wednesday August 7, 2013 – The Mona campus of the University of the West Indies (UWI) is to offer a course on reparation, looking at the issue of compensation for slavery in the Caribbean.

The course is being designed by lecturer in the Department of Government in Political Philosophy and Culture, Dr. Clinton Hutton, who said the curriculum will examine the argument for reparation within a historical context.

Caribbean Community (CARICOM) leaders at their summit in Trinidad and Tobago in July, agreed to establish a committee under the chairmanship of the Barbados Prime Minister Freundel Stuart to drive the issue.

Suriname has already said it would instruct the councils of the Union of South American States to collect “all relevant information for Suriname and CARICOM” on the reparation matter.

St. Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves said the Caribbean is demanding reparation from Europe for native genocide and African slavery.

Hutton said that it is important to educate the Caribbean population about the issues of slavery and reparation, as many young people still do not see a connection between themselves and their enslaved ancestors.

“In other words, they are unable to feel empathy for their own ancestors,” he said, noting that the same lack of feeling displayed for our ancestors is the same that the Europeans had towards black people.

Hutton said that during his lectures, some students have argued that the reason their foreparents were enslaved was because they were uneducated.

He argued, however, that some of the people, who came across the Middle Passage, were state makers, scientists and highly skilled persons.

“In fact, the reason for Europeans going to Africa was that Africa was rich in tropical agriculture and not because of the physical makeup of our ancestors,” he stated.

“We need to walk through the passages that our ancestors walked, and we can only do that if we educate ourselves,” he added.

He said education will also generate a bigger and growing political voice to support the work of the National Commission for Reparations (NCR).

“I have no doubt that if the people are educated they will begin to think differently,” he said. 

27 August 2013

NuStar Energy signs Caribbean fuel-oil supply agreement


NuStar Energy LP said on Friday it has signed a fuel oil supply agreement for its storage facility on the Caribbean island of St. Eustatius with a major trading company, in a bid to reduce its working capital costs.

NuStar, which owns more than 13 million barrels of storage capacity on the tiny Caribbean island, said it would purchase bunker fuel from the unnamed trading company to supply its customers in the region. The company estimated the deal would lower its working capital expenses by $40 million to $50 million and reduce NuStar's exposure to price swings.

A NuStar spokeswoman declined to identify the trading company involved. She said the deal was signed on Aug. 5.

As part of the deal, the trading partner will lease some of the space at the tank farm, the NuStar spokeswoman said.

NuStar Chief Executive Curt Anastasio said in a statement that the company's storage business has suffered from weak demand and difficult market conditions.

"This agreement allows us to remain in a competitive position as a bunker fuel marketer, while reducing our exposure to price risks and dramatically reducing our working capital expenses related to our bunker marketing operations," he said.

U.S. import data from port intelligence group PIERS shows that international commodities trading firm Vitol has increasingly been using St. Eustatius as a hub for oil shipments to the U.S. Gulf Coast and Florida.

The PIERS data shows that Vitol made at least 19 deliveries of refined fuel products from St. Eustatius to the Gulf Coast and Florida between October 2012 and June of this year.

A spokesman for Vitol declined to comment on its shipping activity or on whether it had partnered with NuStar, saying the company doesn't discuss its commercial relationships.

23 August 2013

Papua New Guinea to block West Papua flotilla? Free West Papua Office to open in the Hague

Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa said on Tuesday he believed authorities in Papua New Guinea (PNG) would take decisive measures against Freedom Flotilla West Papua, a group of pro-West Papuan independence activists from Australia who intend to enter Indonesia via the neighboring nation.

The city of Daru in western PNG is planned to be the activist’s last stopover before they proceed on land to Merauke, the easternmost city in the Papua province.

In two boats, dozens of activists departed from the city of Cairns in northeastern Australia on Aug. 17 — the day Indonesians celebrated the nation’s 68th anniversary. They plan to arrive in Daru in early September.

“The Papua New Guinean government has said that they will not allow [the boats] to enter [its territory],” Marty said after attending the Special Conference on Irregular Movement of Persons in Jakarta. “If they insist on proceeding, the Papua New Guinean authorities will take enforcement measures,” he added.

Marty also said that he did not want to provide “more platforms” to the movement which he accused of merely “seeking publicity without having any connection to the facts of development currently underway in Papua and West Papua provinces.”

On the sidelines of the conference, Marty had a bilateral meeting with Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr who was also attending the Jakarta conference.

After the meeting, Carr reiterated that the Australian government did not support the movement particularly given the activists’ failure to obtain visas and a sailing permit which could carry legal consequences under Indonesian law.

Marty, meanwhile, acknowledged the activists’ movements had been discussed with his Australian counterpart. “I listened to Australia’s reaffirmation of recognition of the developments Indonesia has been making in Papua and West Papua provinces,” he said. Marty declined to say whether the government had conveyed a protest to Canberra for letting the flotilla depart from Australian soil.

Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister Djoko Suyanto previously said that he had told Australian ambassador to Indonesia Greg Moriarty “that no nation should allow its soil to be used as a departure point for the movement of a group aimed at disturbing another nation’s sovereignty.”

A Fiji-based media outlet, Islands Business, published an article on Tuesday quoting a PNG police commander who said that Port Moresby “has been alerted to a proposed celebration to mark the landing of a convoy of ships from Cairns Australia, carrying West Papuan people and rights activists.”

The outlet also said PNG police “would not allow any event to mark the proposed independence of the West Papua people of Indonesia.”

According to Australian media, the “Freedom Flotilla” boats had reached Cooktown in North Queensland on Tuesday. The boat’s last stop in Australia will be Thursday Island, also in Queensland, where they will seek customs clearance and hold a press conference before proceeding to Daru.

Free West Papua Campaign Opens Office In The Hague

Coordinator says effort will be on education Dutch 
on colonial history

Radio New Zealand International

  The Free West Papua Campaign has opened its office in the Hague, in the Netherlands.

The office was opened on the 51st anniversary of the New York Agreement under which the former Dutch New Guinea was ceded to Indonesia.

The campaign’s coordinator in the Netherlands, Oridek Ap, says the aim of the office is to provide information regarding the situation in Indonesia’s Papua region and why his organisation thinks West Papuans need to be independent.

Mr Ap says successive Dutch governments have tried to erase the history of Dutch New Guinea from the national conscience, and that the new office will seek to educate younger generations about what is an important part of their country’s history and a major international issue.

21 August 2013

The U.S. Virgin Islands Are in a Catastrophic Recession



A blog about business and economics

Here's something you probably didn't know: The U.S. Virgin Islands are experiencing a catastrophic recession.

According to data released yesterday by the Commerce Department's Bureau of Economic Analysis, real GDP on the islands declined 13.2 percent in 2012 after falling 6.6 percent in 2011. That's terrible.

But it also seems traceable to problems at just one company, the Hovensa oil refinery—a joint venture between Hess and the Venezuelan state oil company that refines Venezuelan crude. The global recession of 2008-09 took a hammer to oil consumption in rich countries, and even as U.S. output has surpassed its pre-crisis peak, U.S. oil consumption still hasn't. And while demand growth has shifted to the developing world, developing countries have also built new modern refineries. That led Hovensa to pile up $1.3 billion in losses over the course of 2009-11 before shutting down in 2012. The refinery was the largest private employer on the island, so its shutdown—paired with an associated decline in governmnet spending as refinery-related tax revenue fell—has driven the Virgin Islands into their funk.

Not coincidentally, the unemployment rate has soared:

READ full article at Moneybox.


20 August 2013

One week after crash, Marines resume Osprey deployment to Okinawa


The U.S. Marines resumed deployment of the Osprey aircraft on Aug. 12 to Okinawa Prefecture, one week after a different military rescue helicopter crashed in a mountainous area of Camp Hansen, heightening safety concerns.

After the accident, the Marines announced they were delaying deployment of 10 Osprey aircraft to U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma from Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni in Yamaguchi Prefecture.

However, eight of the tilt-rotor aircraft, which takes off and lands like a helicopter and flies like an airplane, left Iwakuni at about 8 a.m. on Aug. 12 and arrived at Futenma by about 10:30 a.m., angering local officials.

"I called for a review of deployment plans for close to a year so I feel totally powerless because there has been absolutely no change in the circumstances," said Mayor Atsushi Sakima of the densely populated city of Ginowan, where Futenma is located.

About 200 local citizens gathered in front of a gate to Futenma before the arrival of the eight Osprey to protest the continued deployment. Some shouted, "Osprey, go home."

The Marines had planned to deploy an additional 12 Osprey after deploying an initial 12 aircraft last year. Of the additional Osprey, two landed in Futenma on Aug. 3. Initial plans had called for dispatching more Osprey on Aug. 5, but the crash of the HH-60 helicopter on a training exercise, in which one crew member died, disrupted that timetable.

Further deployment of the Osprey was delayed, but the Marines have still not announced the cause of the Aug. 5 accident.

At around 7 a.m. on Aug. 12, a Marines official said the decision had been made to resume deployment of the Osprey after close coordination with the Japanese government. The Osprey lifted off from Iwakuni about an hour later. The two remaining Osprey in Iwakuni will likely also be moved to Futenma in the near future.

Okinawa prefectural government officials were notified about the resumption of the Osprey deployment before 7 a.m. on Aug. 12 by officials of the Okinawa Defense Bureau.

"The anger of the Okinawa people has heightened because of the helicopter crash at Camp Hansen," said Susumu Matayoshi, head of the Okinawa governor's office. "The deployment of the Osprey will undoubtedly increase the feeling the Okinawan people already have about the base being a burden into a very strong one."

Meanwhile in Tokyo, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told reporters, "We will think first about the daily lives of residents. We will make every effort to reduce the burden on Okinawa."

18 August 2013

University of Puerto Rico to hold session on environmental situation in Insular Caribbean

Dra. Tania López Marrero & Dra. Tamara Heartsill Scalley, “Presentación del número especial de CARIBBEAN STUDIES “Get Up, Stand Up: Environmental Situation, Threats, and Opportunities in the Insular Caribbean”.

El Instituto de Estudios del Caribe, de la Universidad de Puerto Rico-Río Piedras (UPR-RP), invita a la comunidad universitaria y al público en general a la conferencia“Presentación del número especial de CARIBBEAN STUDIES ‘Get Up, Stand Up: Environmental Situation, Threats, and Opportunities in the Insular Caribbean’” por las coeditoras invitadas Dras. Tania López Marrero (Rutgers University) y Tamara Heartsill (Instituto Internacional de Dasonomía Tropical, Servicio Forestal Federal), así como los conferenciantes invitados Dra. Nancy Villanueva Colón (UPR-Bayamón), Prof. Ruperto Chaparro Serrano (UPR-Mayagüez) y Prof. Félix Aponte Ortiz (UPR-Río Piedras). 

La actividad tendrá lugar el jueves, 22 de agosto, de 1:00 a 3:30 p.m., en el Anfiteatro Manuel Maldonado Denis (CRA 108) del Edificio Carmen Rivera de Alvarado (CRA) de la Facultad de Ciencias Sociales, UPR-RP.

Esta presentación será transmitida en línea EN VIVO en la siguiente dirección: http://www.ustream.tv/channel/cc71

Se agradecerá el envío de comentarios y sugerencias sobre la transmisión a: iec.ics@upr.edu

El Instituto de Estudios del Caribe en FACEBOOK


The Institute of Caribbean Studies, University of Puerto Rico-Río Piedras (UPR-RP), invites the academic community and the general public to the event “Presentación del número especial de CARIBBEAN STUDIES ‘Get Up, Stand Up: Environmental Situation, Threats, and Opportunities in the Insular Caribbean’” by guest coeditors Dr. Tania López Marrero (Rutgers University) and Dr. Tamara Heartsill (USDA Forest Service, International Institute of Tropical Forestry), and guest commentators Dr. Nancy Villanueva Colón (UPR-Bayamón), Prof. Ruperto Chaparro Serrano (UPR-Mayagüez) and Prof. Félix Aponte Ortiz (UPR-Río Piedras). The activity will be held on Thursday, August 22, from 1:00 to 3:30 p.m. in Amphitheatre Manuel Maldonado Denis (CRA 108) of Carmen Rivera de Alvarado (CRA) Building, Faculty of the Social Sciences, UPR-RP.

This lecture will be broadcast LIVE online through the following website: http://www.ustream.tv/channel/cc71

Comments and suggestions on this presentation will be very welcome at: iec.ics@upr.edu

The Institute of Caribbean Studies in FACEBOOK.

16 August 2013

Venezuela: “U.S. Drones Stationed In Curacao And Aruba

Venezuela: “U.S. Drones Stationed In Curacao And Aruba Ready To Attack Countries In South America”

WILLEMSTAD – The ex-Venezuelan Vice President, Jose Vicente Rangel has warned of a possible U.S. drone attack stating that the drones had entered Venezuelan airspace.

“These drones, airplanes without pilots, which have been used by the United States of America as a military weapon across the world, have been deployed from sites close to Venezuela. We have seen projects that are currently underway in Curacao and Aruba. These drones are constantly doing different maneuvers around the area,” the former Vice President declared during his T.V. show.

According to Rangel, these maneuvers are part of a conspiracy to attack Venezuela and other South American countries.

“These destabilizing plans are against some countries in the region, especially against Bolivia, Ecuador and Venezuela and the U.S. military will start operations in the month of August,” this is what the former politician alerted during his T.V. program last weekend.

15 August 2013


Emilio Pantojas-Garcia
flag of prico
On August 1 2013 the U.S. Congress was scheduled to discuss Puerto Rico’s political status. In 1898, Puerto Rico became a possession of the United States. Since then the government of the Island evolved from military rule to a Free Associated State, also known as Commonwealth. 

In spite of changes, Puerto Rico remains a possession that belongs to but it is not a part of the United States. Because of this, since its creation in 1952, the Commonwealth status has been considered by large sectors in Puerto Rico and in the international community as a colonial status. Puerto Ricans are divided between three alternatives: a more autonomous Commonwealth; independence; or statehood—becoming a state of the Union. 

Four plebiscites on the status question have been held in 1967, 1993, 1998, and 2012 but, save for Commonwealth in 1967, no formula has emerged overwhelmingly favored. The 2012 plebiscite expressed dissatisfaction with Commonwealth by a vote of 54% against to 46% in favor. Unless Congress—that holds sovereignty over Puerto Rico—acts, the stalemate will continue.

From: The Caribbean Journal of International Relations and Diplomacy, Vol. 1, No. 2; June 2013

Read the full article here.

10 August 2013

St. Martin MPs, Collectivité reps exchange information with Sint Maarten Parliament


PHILIPSBURG--St. Maarten Members of Parliament (MPs) learned more about the roles and functions of the officials of the Collectivité of St. Martin when a delegation headed by Collectivité President Aline Hanson took part in a Central Committee meeting of Parliament in Parliament House on Friday.

This is the second time MPs have met with their French-side counterparts since St. Maarten became a country within the Dutch kingdom on October 10, 2010. The discussions were centred more on outlining the roles of the French-side officials in an effort to bring better understanding about the workings of the Collectivité.

Parliament President Gracita Arrindell called the meeting an important one. She said the information given would help to educate not only MPs, but the public.

MPs expressed the desire to work more closely with their counterparts on the French side. MP Leroy de Weever suggested contact between Parliament's permanent committees and those of the French side's Collectivité.

Hanson outlined the functioning of the Collectivité and areas for which she is responsible. The Vice-Presidents and other council members gave information about their roles, projects and programmes. She also gave a population estimate for the French side as 37,630 people. The Collectivité records some 800-900 births annually.

The French side has implemented a statistical information system supported by Forward Keys. It has been estimated from that system that more than one million tourists come to the island as a whole annually. It has shown that cruise numbers for the French side are dropping.

MPs were told by the visiting officials that the French side would be requesting some water supply from the Dutch side soon for some six months, to allow for the renovations of the water network on the eastern part of the French side. A meeting to finalise the arrangements is slated for this month.

A booklet on the functions and roles of the Collectivité representatives and committee is in the offing and once completed copies will be shared with Parliament.

Hanson was accompanied by Territorial Council Member Louis Fleming, First Vice-President Guillaume Arnell, Second Vice-President Ramona Connor, Third Vice-President Wendel Cocks, Fourth Vice-President Rosette Gumbs-Lake and Executive Council representative Jeanne Vanterpool.

MPs enquired about the competency of the Collectivité to deal with local issues instead of needing to involve officials from France. The Collectivité representatives pointed out that based on the French side's constitutional statement, it has limited competencies.

MP Johan Leonard (UP) was again emotional about the "one people" of the island being hampered from ironing out local issues without France or the Netherlands becoming involved, depending on the situation.

Hanson said memoranda of understanding on working together could be made by the two sides of the island.

There will be a meeting of officials of the two sides of the island and those of France and the Netherlands in 2014 to iron out issues related to police carrying out cross-border "hot pursuit" of criminals.

Possibilities of working together on projects to benefit both sides of the island also were raised. However, the French side must comply with strict European standards that may make some projects feasible.

A written follow-up related to the operation of Dutch-side taxis on the French side has been promised by the Collectivité representatives in response to questions posed by independent MP Romain Laville. There is a plan to regulate the buses and taxis on the island that needs to be discussed with the Dutch side government.

Absent from Friday's Central Committee meeting were MPs Louie Laveist, Sylvia Meyers-Olivacce and Dr. Ruth Douglass.

08 August 2013

French nuclear tests 'showered vast area of Polynesia with radioactivity'

Islands Business

PARIS, France ---- French nuclear tests in the South Pacific in the 1960s and 1970s were far more toxic than has been previously acknowledged and hit a vast swath of Polynesia with radioactive fallout, according to newly declassified Ministry of Defence documents which have angered veterans and civilians' groups.

The papers, seen by the French paper Le Parisien, reportedly reveal that plutonium fallout hit the whole of French Polynesia, a much broader area than France had previously admitted. Tahiti, above, the most populated island, was exposed to 500 times the maximum accepted levels of radiation. The impact spread as far as the tourist island, Bora Bora.

Read full article in Islands Business .

07 August 2013

Visit of the Pacific Islands Forum Ministerial Committee to New Caledonia

Press Statement

The Pacific Islands Forum Ministerial Committee on New Caledonia concluded three days of extensive and inclusive consultations with key stakeholders to gauge a sense of the progress in implementation of the Noumea Accord. 

The Forum Ministerial Committee is mandated to observe the progress of implementation of the Noumea Accord, which sets the agreed pathway to allow the people of New Caledonia to determine the process to self-determination, and to reaffirm the Forum’s commitment to support that process including identifying options for Forum support to New Caledonia’s continued political development. 

The mission was led by the Forum Chair, Honourable Henry Puna Prime Minister of Cook Islands, and included the Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, Tuiloma Neroni Slade. 

Prime Minister Puna expressed his sincere gratitude to the Government and people of New Caledonia for the warm reception accorded to the mission, and commended all the stakeholders consulted for the immense progress achieved under the Noumea Accord, in particular progress toward greater self-governance and economic development, while critically maintaining peace and stability.

The Committee called on the Customary Senate and met with the traditional leaders of New Caledonia. The Committee also had meetings with President Harold Martin and members of his Cabinet; Mr Gerard Poadja, President of the New Caledonia Congress; representatives of political parties; and Leaders of the Provincial Governments. The Committee also met with His Excellency Jean-Jacques Brot, High Commissioner of France to New Caledonia. Prime Minister Puna expressed appreciation for the opportunity to meet with the wide range of stakeholders and thanked all interlocutors for their candid and frank discussions and exchange of views.

Prime Minister Puna said he was “very impressed by the unified position and commitment across the political landscape to maintain peace and stability and continued economic growth and development, despite the uncertainty of future political arrangements.” 

Prime Minister Puna added “in that regard I am pleased to note two key features of New Caledonia’s development strategies, namely the recognition of the Kanak identity and circumstances as well as the real and sustained efforts underway to achieve economic and social rebalancing across the country.” It was also encouraging to note that there was widespread recognition and acceptance that New Caledonia is home to other communities and they should equally benefit from the rebalancing efforts.

Prime Minister Puna said that as the Forum Committee was in New Caledonia to observe and listen, he was pleased to be able to advise Forum Leaders, at their upcoming meeting in September, that both the letter and the spirit of the Noumea Accord were respected and acted on, and that the irreversible process toward self-governance under the Noumea Accord was progressing well with all parties committed to a peaceful and prosperous future for all New Caledonians. 

In concluding, Prime Minister Puna reaffirmed that “the Forum’s commitment to support New Caledonia in its journey toward self-determination remains steadfast, recognising that New Caledonia is a member of the Pacific family and should take its rightful place in the Pacific community.”

03 August 2013

Mood for self-determination grows among small Pacific nations

Papua self determination
One voice … West Papua's demand for greater independence from Indonesia has not gone unheard by other Melanesian states. Photograph: Shaun Curry/Getty
A diplomatic whirlwind around efforts by West Papuans to gain international recognition for self-determination is gaining intensity after an application by an umbrella organisation for political and tribal groups in Indonesia's eastern region, the West Papua National Coalition for Liberation, to join the Pacific Islands region's power bloc, known as theMelanesian Spearhead Group (MSG).
The membership bid was widely anticipated before a recent MSG leaders' summit in Noumea, the capital city of the French special collectivity of New Caledonia. A decision on the matter by the group's five members – Papua New GuineaFijiSolomon IslandsVanuatu and New Caledonia's indigenous Kanak and Socialist Liberation Front – has been deferred while they look to engage more closely with Jakarta on the issue of human rights abuses in heavily militarised Papua and West Papua provinces. For decades, Indonesia has restricted access to the Papua region. But it is becoming impossible to keep a lid on the catalogue of events there. Violence, torture and extrajudicial killings are all part of the region's recent narrative.
The International Coalition for Papua of civil society and faith-based organisations notes a high level of violence where the perpetrators – said to be mainly Indonesian security forces – have widespread impunity.
"We are aware of the atrocities and human rights violations being committed against West Papuans in their homeland," said Vanuatu's prime minister, Moana Carcasses, at the June summit. He warned that history would judge the MSG members poorly if they failed to act decisively on West Papua.
Carcasses's call to action was echoed by his Solomon Islands counterpart, Gordon Darcy Lilo. "We can provide a platform for dialogue between West Papua and Indonesia," said Lilo, who advocates "an approach that considers consultations and dialogue with both Indonesia and West Papuans [to] allow for responsible and managed progress towards self-determination".
Such statements are a significant departure. Although the MSG was created in the 1980s with the aim of breaking the colonial shackles for all Melanesians, West Papua has until now been kept off the agenda, mainly at Papua New Guinea's behest.
The plight of the Melanesians on the other side of the porous 760km border that divides New Guinea has long been a sensitive issue for Papua New Guinea. Over the years, it has struggled to contain the thousands of West Papuans fleeing the Indonesian military, and has battled with the cross-border movement of arms and contraband.
In Papua New Guinea, public anguish runs deep about the treatment of neighbouring West Papuans. The International Coalition for Papua reports that the indigenous people experience a much lower level of security and protection of their right to life compared with other residents of Indonesia's Papua.
While the West Papua National Coalition for Liberation was busy lobbying support from Melanesian governments, Indonesian lobbying against the membership bid has applied a full range of economic and diplomatic pressure on Papua New Guinea in particular, says Richard Chauvel from the School of Social Sciences at Melbourne's Victoria University.
"The PNG government clearly has an interest in maintaining the security of that border," says Chauvel, "and PNG military forces are dwarfed by the Indonesian security forces stationed in West Papua."
By far the biggest member of the Melanesian group, resource-rich Papua New Guinea wields a major influence. Last month it agreed with Indonesia on a range of joint border projects such as gas exploration, highway construction and hydropower. Papua New Guinea's prime minister, Peter O'Neill, missed this year's Melanesian summit, opting instead for a state visit to Jakarta with a large business delegation. This was seen by some as reaffirming its support for Indonesian control of West Papua.
Fiji, too, has strengthened economic and military ties with Indonesia, while turning away from traditional partners Australia and New Zealand. The leader of Fiji's military regime, Commodore Frank Bainimarama, was instrumental in securing an invitation for a Melanesian group's mission to Indonesia later this year to discuss West Papua.
He is less keen on the WPNCL's application than his counterparts in Vanuatu and Solomon Islands. MSG leaders say they will decide on the membership bid pending the mission's outcome.
"Fiji wants to play on the bigger stage, engage with major Asian powers," says Fijian academic Brij Lal, of the Australian National University's School of Culture, History and Language. "But siding with Indonesia on the West Papua issue muddies the situation and undermines the regional solidarity required on issues of regional security and peace."
The WPNCL's secretary general, Rex Rumakiek, says what is important is that their struggle has been internationalised. "They are now visually recognising the issue and collectively want to do something about it."
A specialist in Papua affairs, Chauvel says the MSG is significant in the context of West Papua's long struggle. "Almost all other groups within the broader pro-independence movement feel that the only way to get the Indonesian government to talk to them is through international pressure."
Indonesia recognises the importance of consolidating ties with Melanesia. It controversially achieved observer status in the Melanesian group two years ago under Fiji's chairmanship. As Indonesia's vice-minister for foreign affairs, Wisnu Wardhana, told the summit, trade between MSG countries and his country amounted to $320m in 2012 and is on the rise.
The mood in the Pacific region for decolonisation should not be underestimated. The new chair of the MSG is the Kanak and Socialist Liberation Front, which received reinvigorated support from the independent Melanesian states for its own self-determination campaign. The timing is important as the Noumea Accord enters its final phase. The accord, which dates to 1998, provides for a potential transferral of political power to New Caledonia subject to a referendum to be held between 2014 and 2019.
Other Pacific states are seeking consolidated support for similar causes. Among the special guests at the Melanesian summit was French Polynesia's former president, Oscar Temaru, who, in May, within hours of losing the election to the pro-France veteran Gaston Flosse, succeeded in getting the territory reinstated on the UN decolonisation list. This list provides non-self-governing territories with UN oversight and help in a process towards an act of self-determination.
Solomon Islands sponsored the UN resolution, playing a key role in its success by galvanising support from the Melanesia network. This brings the number of Pacific territories on the UN list to six, from a total 17.
There's still a long way to go. "Remnants of colonial times are still trying to scare our peoples and convince us that we are not fit to manage our own destinies together," said Temaru. "We have huge resources and potential that are coveted by big sharks that roam our oceans."
The Melanesian leaders say they must show resolve to withstand pressure from big countries on issues of self-determination. On the West Papua question particularly, the MSG must also manage its own internal divisions. The push for freedom by the people of the Pacific is growing, but the movement needs united support from Melanesia to stand a chance.