Vanuatu – standing above the rest

ONE of the Pacific’s smaller island states, Vanuatu stands taller than the larger nations with its consistent, principled stand on social justice, parliamentary democracy and corruption. Where other countries have fallen short, Vanuatu has punched well above its weight, holding its leaders to account and going beyond its borders to call on foreign leaders act justly.

For more than 30 years – since independence and the leadership of Father Walter Lini – this former condominium has called for self-determination in West Papua. Its parliamentarians have marched in the streets to show Jakarta their displeasure over the failure of successive Indonesian governments to address human rights abuses carried out on Papuans by members of the security forces.

Papuan dissidents have been welcomed with open arms and the people of Vanuatu have embraced their cause in the name of Melanesian solidarity. The same cannot be said of its larger neighbours and Melanesian brothers – Fiji and Papua New Guinea.

Despite having greater influence with Indonesia, Fiji and PNG have chosen to acquiesce to diplomatic overtures and turn a blind eye to human rights abuses in Papua. They have taken the convenient step of labelling systematic genocide and arbitrary arrest as internal matters.

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