Jayapura, Jubi – The Vanuatu Association of Non-Governmental Organisation (VANGO) has expressed its firm solidarity with the Pacific Association of Non-Governmental Organisation (PIANGO) on West Papua.
The VANGO support was expressed by the Chairperson of the Vanuatu national NGO group Ms Lind Peter in an email to PIANGO Executive Director Ms Emele Duituturaga, who is currently in Pohnpei, FSM, where they have held the Civil Society Organisations (CSO) Forum on the eve of the 47th Pacific Islands Forum leaders meeting.
In her media briefing earlier in the week, Ms Duituturaga made PIANGO’s stand on West Papua clear – that the issue was no long a matter for the Melanesian Spearhead Group nor the PIF leaders; but rather a United Nations issue.
VANGO’s Linda Peter says in her email and quoted by Vanuatu reporter covering the Pohnpei PIF meeting Moses Stevens.
“We Vanuatu Civil Society Alliance is in solidarity with other local CSOs here in Vanuatu and will continue to advocate locally, nationally and regionally for the freedom for West Papua in alliance with PIANGO and the global community.
The Vanuatu government is also taking a similar stand in their approach to lobbying support for the independence cause of West Papua.
Director General of the Prime Minister’s Office (Vanuatu) Johnson Naviti, says “now that more regional governments have stood out clear on their support for West Papua, our plans now is to take the mater beyond the region”.
While leaders of the Melanesian Spearhead Group (which was formed initially to spearhead the independence cause of West Papua and Kanaky) have divided over West Papua, Solomon Islands has taken a clear stand with the support of Tuvalu and Nauru in their “Pacific Coalition for West Papua”. (*)
Memo NZ: ‘Get on the right side of history’ over West Papua
Vanuatu says New Zealand should get on the right side of history and support West Papuan self-determination. However, reports James Halpin of Asia Pacific Journalism, Indonesian diplomacy with its Pacific allies Australia, Fiji and Papua New Guinea are defiantly undermining Pacific “solidarity” on the issue.
Vanuatu’s Foreign Minister Ralph Regenvanu has called on New Zealand to get on the right side of history when it comes to West Papua.
Reaffirming President Salwai’s remarks at the UN General Assembly late last month, Regenvanu told Asia Pacific Report that the “people of Vanuatu have never had the opportunity to exercise their right of self-determination, which is an unalienable right under international law, and they must be given that opportunity”.
Independence for Vanuatu was achieved from the co-colonisers France and the United Kingdom in 1980.
West Papua had been a colony of the Dutch New Guinea but was annexed by Indonesia after a paratrooper “invasion” in 1962 followed by a UN-supervised vote in 1969 described by critics as fraudulent.
Asked why Vanuatu has taken the lead in advocating for West Papua, Regenvanu says:
“We take this position because of our historical solidarity with the people of West Papua – we were once together and the struggles as colonies trying to become independent; we achieved ours and we will not forget our brothers-and-sisters-in-arms who have not got theirs.”
For President Salwai and Regenvanu, the recent Pacific Islands Forum was a failure at gaining Pacific support for West Papuan self-determination.
“We are disappointed at the position of Papua New Guinea, Fiji and Australia to vocally oppose self-determination for West Papua. We are pleased that most other countries support self-determination, however.”
Regenvanu also criticises New Zealand for not following the advice that it gives to Pacific Island countries.
New Zealand should, “actively support with actions on this issue the ‘international rules-based order’ it is always promoting to PICs”.
The Melanesian Spearhead Group, which shares an ethnicity with the people of West Papua, has also failed at achieving solidarity over the issue.
“PNG and Fiji have strong ties to Indonesia and work actively to ensure the MSG does not address the issue.”
End colonialism call
President Charlot Salwai Tabimasmas introduced the issue of West Papua to the UN General Assembly this year.
“For half a century now, the international community has been witnessing a gamut of torture, murder, exploitation, sexual violence, arbitrary detention inflicted on the nationals of West Papua perpetrated by Indonesia.”
“We also call on our counterparts throughout the world to support the legal right of West Papua to self-determination.”
For President Salwai, it is an issue of justice and equality for the people of West Papua,
“I would like to get back to the principles in the charter of the United Nations to reaffirm that we believe in the fundamental rights of human beings in dignity and worth of the human person and in equality of rights between men and women and nations large and small.”
President Salwai has been the flag bearer of West Papuan self-determination. His aim is for West Papua to be placed back onto the decolonisation list under the UN charter.
However, President Salwai was supported by two other Pacific leaders, Marshall Islands’ President Hilda Heine of the Marshall Islands, and Enele Sopoaga of Tuvalu.
Sopoaga said: “The United Nations must also engage with the people of West Papua to find lasting solutions to their struggles.”
President Heine staid that Pacific Island countries supported constructive engagement on the issue.
At the 2016 UN General Assembly, seven countries stated their supported for West Papuan self-determination. These were: Vanuatu, Solomon Islands, Nauru, Marshall Islands, Tuvalu, Tonga, Palau.
Decolonisation has become an important part of foreign relations in the Pacific with the New Caledonian independence vote on November 4.
After hundreds of years of European colonisation, the UN has provided a platform for and facilitated the self-determination of indigenous peoples across the world.
The Indonesian delegation denounced Vanuatu at the UN General Assembly just days ago. The Indonesia delegation used the entirety of their second right of reply in the general debate to deplore Vanuatu’s support for West Papuan self-determination.
“Although being disguised with flowery human rights concern, Vanuatu’s sole intention and action are directly challenging the internationally agreed principles of friendly relations between state, sovereignty and territorial integrity,” UN General Assembly Vice-President Muhammad Kalla said on behalf of his country.
He said: “Like any other country, Indonesia will firmly defend its territorial integrity.”
The Indonesian representative, Aloysius Taborat, said: “respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity is the cardinal rule in the relation among nations and in the United Nations”.
However, critics say Indonesia’s handling of West Papua’s vote in the 1969Act of Free Choice “was rigged” so that West Papua would vote to join Indonesia. Therefore, many see hypocrisy in Indonesia’s words, including in their reputation over press freedom.
Human rights abuses are a common occurrence in West Papua, according to human rights organisations. Simply raising the West Papuan flag can result in 15-years imprisonment.(*)
James Halpin is a student journalist on the Postgraduate Diploma in Communication Studies course at AUT. He is filing articles in the Asia-Pacific Journalism Studies paper.
“I am West Papua. I am Papuan” : Anglican Archbishop of Oceania joint statement
Jayapura, Jubi – The Anglican Archbishop of Oceania, who have been meeting in Australia, have warned of the threat to their region from climate change. In a joint statement, the five Archbishop said :
“We agreed that as whole nations of ocean people lose their island homes, climate justice advocacy and action must become the most urgent priority for Oceanic Anglicans.”
Archbishop Philip Freier, of Australia, Archbishop Clyde Igara, of Papua New Guinea, Archbishop Winston Halapua, and Archbishop Philip Richardson of Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia, and Archbishop George Takeli of Melanesia met in Tweed Heads, in New South Wales. They noted that they were four Provinces covering many nations, more than 1000 languages, with rich and diverse cultures. They said they were united through the interweaving of history and long friendships, but were coming together against a backdrop of disharmony:
“We gather at a time when the rhetoric of nationalism, ridicule, fear-mongering, and hatred is so prevalent. In such a climate where “me first” or “we first” dominates, we affirm: “we together.”
They said they had heard “harrowing” stories of human rights violations in West Papua: “which were poignantly focussed for us by Archbishop Clyde Igara, who said: “I am West Papua. I am Papuan” – such is the arbitrariness of national boundaries and the historical circumstances that have defined them.”
The primates said they would be judged by their failure to support their weakest part: “We celebrate that what the world views as weak is in fact strength, what the world views as folly, is indeed wisdom. We rejoice at the fruits of the Spirit we see in each other, and we give thanks for the faithfulness of our forebears who sowed the seeds of the Gospel in our lands.”
They also addressed the challenges of seasonal workers and labour mobility across their Provinces and “how we could respond both pastorally and politically;” they also considered the way “our growing relationships with the Anglican Provinces across Asia could be deepened and looked forward to the meeting of the Primates of the Anglican Communion in October 2017.” (*)
Indonesia and Vanuatu: Too different for a real partnership?
While Vanuatu is an island nation and Indonesia is an archipelagic country, the differences seem to be too great for a real partnership to work between the two countries.
The difference in size is striking. From its westernmost part in Aceh to its easternmost part in Merauke, Papua, Indonesia stretches as wide as from Port Vila to Honolulu, Hawaii. For every person in Vanuatu, there are one thousand persons in Indonesia. Whereas Vanuatu’s population is primarily Melanesians, Indonesians are a mix of ethnicities: Javanese, Sumatrans, Malays, Melanesians, Chinese and so on.
Differences could be unsettling. In both personal relations as well as international relations for instance, the world can be split into two. Those in the minority that delves in and are paralyzed by the smallest of differences and the rest who respect differences but keep on chipping at them to bring the relations closer together.
The second group realizes that the reward of working together, of having a strong partnership far outweigh the short-term gains of resentment.
There are a number of important similarities that Indonesia and Vanuatu can use to build our relationship on.
Indonesia sits on the Pacific ring of fire making it prone to volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, tsunamis and other natural disasters. Likewise, Vanuatu is prone to tropical cyclones, volcanic eruptions and tsunamis. Both Indonesia and Vanuatu have many small islands that are vulnerable to changes in the climate.
Another parallel is that since early in their modern history, leaders of both countries understood that a secure and stable region is a condition for sustained economic growth and prosperity. Leaders understood that a secure and stable region depends on good international relations. Good international relations in turn depends on mutual respect of national sovereignty and territorial integrity.
It is thus no coincidence that Indonesia and Vanuatu engages their respective immediate regions actively. Both capitals are respectively homes to the secretariat of the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG), in Port Vila and the secretariat of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in Jakarta.
It is no accident moreover that both countries share many national and regional goals. Both countries aim for sustainable economic growth and development, better governance, a secure and stable region as well as a more prosperous population.
The people of Vanuatu celebrated her 36th anniversary on 30 July. On behalf of the eleven million Melanesians living in Indonesia and all the citizens of Indonesia, let me again extend my warmest congratulations to the people and government of Vanuatu. Indonesia too, is celebrating. On last 17th of August, Indonesia commemorated our 71st anniversary.
Anniversaries are usually a period for reflection. As both fellow vibrant democracies look into the future, in the next 15 years to 2030, Vanuatu, Indonesia and the region will not be quite the same.
The combined region of Southeast Asia and MSG would be a formidable economic and cultural zone. With current annual growth, by the 2030s, Indonesia will be among the top ten biggest economies in the world. As member countries continue to focus on providing solutions to current financial and institutional challenges facing the MSG, by 2030 the region will be more economically integrated and dynamic. In the decades ahead, Vanuatu will perhaps have a larger tourism and services sector as well as agriculture and livestock farming complementing her more traditional export commodities of copra, coconuts, cocoa, fish and wood processing.
Indonesia’s trade with and investment in Vanuatu is still relatively small, indicating a good growth potential. Indonesia’s 60-million strong middle and consuming-class is very much looking forward to establishing closer trade, investment and development links with Vanuatu and all the countries of the MSG.
Thus it is important for us to concentrate the partnership on developing the tourism and agriculture sectors, boosting programs on climate change, preparing the most vulnerable communities for adaptation and mitigation. It is also important to work together on programs of disaster preparedness and disaster risk management. The US$2 million in humanitarian aid dispatched by the Indonesian government to Vanuatu in the aftermath of Cyclone Pam and the many programs of technical cooperation delivered to Vanuatu over the years are good examples of such partnership.
Indonesia is a member of a number of regional trading arrangements including within ASEAN as well intra-regionally such as ASEAN-China and ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand. Indonesia is also a member of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) and the G20. In our experience, we found that expanding our international markets and partnerships creates more jobs, affordable products and services and boost competitiveness.
The eastern part of Indonesia, home to five Melanesian provinces of East Nusa Tenggara, Maluku, North Maluku, Papua and West Papua is Asia’s natural entrance to the Pacific. Conversely, Indonesia is welcoming Vanuatu and MSG countries into the rewarding markets of Indonesia, Southeast Asia and beyond through this eastern region gateway.
When we concentrate on issues that bring us closer while working to resolve differences, I am confident that in the future, the leaders of both countries will be remembered as those who brought stability, security, justice and prosperity to the nation and the region.
Nadjib Riphat Kesoema
Ambassador of Indonesia to Vanuatu
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