"Don’t discuss West Papua behind our back."- West Papua activist Andy Ayamiseba
By Ricky Binihi
The decision by Prime Minister Sato Kilman to ignore the wish of the people of Vanuatu and join Melanesian Spearhead Group leaders to accept Indonesia in MSG has angered the West Papua movement for Independence.
Representatives of the custodian of the West Papua issue that are based in Vanuatu had repeatedly asked the Vanuatu government to listen to their concerns before Prime Minister attended the MSG meeting in Fiji.
PM Kilman is not obliged to listen to West Papua independence movement leaders because Vanuatu signed a diplomatic relation with Indonesia in 1995 and as such recognises West Papua as an integral part of Indonesia. He was however mandated by the Council of Ministers and the Parliament to vote against the granting MSG Observer Status to Indonesia as well as support West Papua’s application.
MSG accepted Indonesia as an Observer in March 15, nine days before the Council of Ministers decided the Vanuatu should oppose Indonesia at the MSG, and Vanuatu did not prepare an application for West Papua membership at the MSG in line with the wish of Parliament when it passed the “Wantok blong Yumi Bill”.
Instead when PM Kilman returned to Vanuatu he was reported as saying that “when we talk about Independence for West Papua, we need to talk directly with Indonesia. It’s no use talking to the media without going directly to the source. Indonesia will only take our concerns seriously if we engage directly with then through diplomatic relations.”
But outspoken West Papua international activist Andy Ayamiseba pointed out the Vanuatu must not discuss the issue of West Papua independence without engaging the view of the majority of the people of West Papua.
“In the 60’s, West Papua was left in the cold while their destiny was determined by the Dutch, United States of America, and the Indonesian government,” Mr Ayamiseba said referring specifically to the 1969 Act of Free Choice.
“Is the MSG going to do the same?” Mr Ayamiseba asked.
There are fears among West Papua supporters in Vanuatu that Indonesia’s military and economic power will tilt the table of negotiations in favor Indonesia once the issue of West Papua is put on the MSG table.
There are also concerns that Indonesian economic power that Vanuatu could benefit from may force Port Vila to sweep the West Papua issue under the carpet in favor of the economic gains promised by Jakarta.
Many Vanuatu politicians and leaders believe that the avenue towards West Papua Independence is to correct the mistake done by the international community through the conduct of the 1969 Act of Choice by the UN under the Indonesian Military control, and eventually re-list West Papua back in the Decolonisation Committee.
Mr Ayamiseba said the ultimate aim is to have an international supervised referendum like the one held in East Timor and Namibia.
“Dealing with Indonesia is a conflict of interest, and more importantly a recognition of Indonesian sovereignty over West Papua,” Mr Ayamiseba.
Perhaps that was how the majority of council of ministers felt when they decided that Indonesia should not be part of the MSG.
And maybe that was the consensus too in Parliament when they unanimously voted that West Papua should be part of MSG and that its case should be raised in the International Court of Justice.
INDONESIA OBSERVER ROLE, BREACH TO MELANESIAN UNITY
Vanuatu Women council disapprove Prime Minister’s decision
Vanuatu’s National Council of Women says the Prime Minister’s decision to grant Indonesia observer status at the Melanesian Spearhead Group summit, was a breach of Melanesian solidarity. The Council’s President, Manina Packete, has described the move as irresponsible and a slap in the face for the people and against the will of parliament. She says the Prime Minister, Sato Kilman, has made a mockery of the country, going against Vanuatu’s support for Papuans, who are yet to be made MSG observers.
Ms. Packete says Vanuatu must refocus on what it stands for and find a way to correct what she believes was a mistake.
"That’s why my recommendation is instead of MSG, that has lost its way from our culture and custom, that we call this MSG secretariat building has to turn into a greater council of chiefs of Melanesia." Manina Packete is suggesting the MSG secretariat be moved from Port Vila to Fiji or Papua New Guinea.