Leaders choose regional solidarity over bully
INDONESIA attempted to derail unification talks between West Papuan dissident groups by forcing hosts Vanuatu into a diplomatic impasse.
But instead of bowing to pressure, Prime Minister Joe Natuman led a crowd of ni-Vanuatu on a march through the capital Port Vila in support of self-determination in West Papua.
A long-time advocate of freedom in the Indonesian-held territory, Vanuatu agreed to host a meeting of West Papuan freedom advocates who want a permanent seat on the Melanesian Spearhead Group.
Indonesia has observer status and last year pressured members to refuse West Papua a place unless dissident groups were represented by a single entity and voice.
With the Pacific Conference of Churches, Vanuatu’s chiefs and religious leaders organised a conference in Port Vila to allow the groups to discuss and set aside their differences. Its bluff called, Indonesia realised that the summit could have an unwelcome outcome – West Papuan delegates in the MSG as full members and the Indonesian delegation mere observers.
On November 28 Indonesia’s Canberra Embassy sent a diplomatic note to Vanuatu’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs to express its dismay at the impending talks:
“The Embassy of the Republic of Indonesia presents its compliments to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, International Cooperation and External Trade of the Republic of Vanuatu and has the honor to convey its deepest concern over the plan of holding a conference on Papua in Port Vila in early December 2014. The conference only serves as a platform for politically-motivated individuals and groups and clearly does not represent the wishes of the majority of Papuans who are now focusing on accelerating the development in the Provinces within the Unitary State of the Republic of Indonesia.
“This activity and any support of it will potentially affect the bilateral relations between Indonesia and Vanuatu. In this regard, the Government of Indonesia requests that the Government of the Republic of Vanuatu takes this matter seriously.
*The author is communication consultant for Pacific Conference of Churches’s Secretariat.
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By Netani Rika