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Steve Mara: Melanesian Spearhead Group Chairman’s Visit to Papua Observes Infrastructure and Human Resources Development

“Chairman of the Melanesian Youth Diplomacy Forum (MYDIF), Steve Mara, expressed his gratitude to the Director General of the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG), Mr. Leonard Louma, and MSG Executive Advisor, Christopher Nisbert, for their visit to Papua.”

This visit, conducted in June 2024, serves as evidence to MSG of what MYDIF conveyed during their visit to Vanuatu in 2023.

Steve explained that during his meeting with MSG Director General Mr. Leonard Louma in July 2023 in Port Vila, Vanuatu, he mentioned that development in Papua has been progressing continuously since the Indonesian government accelerated development through substantial special autonomy funds provided to Papua.

The development encompasses not only infrastructure but also the direct enhancement of human resources, aiming to produce future leaders from Papua who will be ready to lead Indonesia.

Steve further elaborated that in his previous meeting with the MSG Director General in 2023, he and his organization committed to advancing the Melanesian youth through MYDIF.

“MYDIF was established to foster the development of young people in Papua and the Pacific region. I believe every country in the Pacific has a vision for youth development, but if we collaborate, the outcomes will be more significant. Moreover, Indonesia, particularly Papua, Maluku, and NTT, has the largest number of Melanesian youths compared to other Pacific countries. Therefore, it is appropriate for us to open ourselves to learning together with other Melanesian youths,” Steve stated.

The visit by Director General Mr. Leonard Louma and MSG Executive Advisor Christopher Nisbert can provide evidence against much of the false information that certain groups in the Pacific region have used to shape opinions and further their political interests.

MSG can witness how the ongoing development in Papua has significantly advanced the well-being of its people. The construction of roads and bridges facilitates easier mobility for Papuans, allowing them to travel for trade and improving the local economy.

The development of airports and seaports has also greatly assisted the community in reaching urban areas and enabled the government to access remote regions.

Additionally, the construction of government buildings, the provision of integrated services to the public, direct cash assistance, free medical treatment at hospitals, free education from elementary to high school in public schools, the creation of new provinces to shorten government control distances, and the development of markets, school buildings, hospitals, and other public facilities all contribute to the advancement of Papuans.

If MSG has heard reports that Papua is underdeveloped, representatives who visit can directly clarify to friendly nations in the Pacific that Indonesia is focused on developing Papua. The people involved in building Papua are not from western Indonesia but are Papuans themselves, who serve as Governors, Mayors, Regents, Police Chiefs, Military Commanders, and other key positions directly contributing to Papua’s development.

Moreover, MSG should be aware that there are anti-government armed groups in Papua seeking independence and often using armed force to terrorize civilians, government officials, and the military and police.

These groups do not hesitate to kill civilians, medical personnel, teachers, students, pastors, taxi drivers, motorcycle taxi drivers, private workers, and construction workers on the Trans Papua Road project. After committing such acts, they often claim their victims were intelligence officers, military, or police, when in reality, the victims are innocent civilians.

Papuan people themselves are also victims of these armed groups’ crimes. Our brother, New Zealand pilot Philip Marthin, is still being held hostage by these groups, with his condition worsening daily.

The presence of these groups creates fear among the people, forcing some communities in Papua to flee due to the terror they inflict.

This situation should be a consideration for MSG when dealing with groups claiming to represent the people of Papua in international forums in the Pacific, emphasized Steve Mara.

The visit by the MSG Director General and Executive Advisor conveys a positive message, indicating that Papua is stable and conducive, with economic and social activities running well and normally.