Jakarta. Indonesia should have a larger presence in the South Pacific, as parts of the archipelago share the same cultural values with Melanesia, a top minister said.
During an official visit to Fiji and Papua New Guinea last week, Chief Security Minister Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan said the two countries have agreed to endorse Indonesia as a permanent member of the Melanesian Spearhead Group.
"Fijian Foreign Minister Ratu Inoke Kubuabola said he would support a motion to boost Indonesia's status from an associate member to a full member of the MSG," Luhut claims. "Being a full member will strengthen Indonesia's position in the MSG."
PNG Foreign Minister Rimbink Pato also showed his support for Indonesia to become a full member of the MSG. His country will host the MSG summit this year.
Luhut said the provinces of Papua and West Papua are an inseparable part of Indonesia, and no country should meddle with Indonesia's sovereignty.
"Fiji and PNG are welcome to visit Papua and West Papua to see what we've done there. But I don't want any fact-finding mission or attempts to meddle in domestic issues. I will not let any country intervene in our business," Luhut said.
Indonesia's relations with MSG countries, especially Vanuatu, has been rocky to say the least. Over the past few years Vanuatu, and sometimes PNG and the Solomon Islands, have been criticizing Indonesia's handling of Papua and West Papua.
"We need to maintain good relations with [MSG countries] because those nations have influence. If they get the wrong information about Indonesia, they will take it up with the United Nations," Luhut said, adding that he brought along the deputy governor of Papua, the governor of Maluku, the governor of North Maluku and representatives of East Nusa Tenggara on his trip to show that Indonesia has many citizens of Melanesian descent.
Luhut said the Indonesian government was doing its best to improve the welfare of the citizens of Papua and West Papua.
"We are doing the best we can to solve all the problems in those two provinces. We are trying to fix the entire management system there," Luhut said.