The pro-independence United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP) has welcomed Vanuatu Deputy Prime Minister Jotham Napat’s comments on West Papua during this week’s diplomatic visit to Indonesia.
In a joint press conference with Indonesian Vice-President Ma’ruf Amin, Napat restated his commitment to the “Melanesian way”.
Movement president Benny Wenda has issued a statement saying that hearing those words, “I was reminded of Vanuatu’s founding Father Walter Lini, who said that ‘Vanuatu will not be entirely free until all Melanesia is free from colonial rule’ — West Papua and Kanaky included.”
The Melanesian way had been shown in full membership of the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) being extended to the Kanak and Socialist National Liberation Front (FLNKS), despite them representing a Melanesian people rather than a Melanesian state [New Caledonia], Wenda said.
It has also been demonstrated in Papua New Guinea’s approach to Bougainville, where Prime Minister Marape showed true moral courage by respecting their right to self-determination with a 98 percent vote in favour of independence in 2019.
“Vanuatu has always shown the same courage in supporting West Papuan freedom. By referencing the Melanesian way in the joint press conference, Deputy PM Napat was conveying to Indonesia the message Moses gave to Pharoah: ‘Let my people go’,” Wenda said.
“As West Papuans we are also committed to Melanesian values. This is why we have turned to our Melanesian family in seeking full membership of the MSG.
Vanuatu ‘steadfast in support’
“In their role as chair of the Melanesian Spearhead Group, Vanuatu has been steadfast in supporting ULMWP full membership.
“At this crucial hour, we need all Melanesian leaders to show the same commitment, and help bring West Papua home to its Melanesian family.
“Indonesia must respect Vanuatu and other Melanesian nations by allowing the fulfillment of this decades-long dream.”
To resolve the West Papuan issue peacefully in the Melanesian way, the first step was admitting the ULMWP as a full member of the MSG at the forthcoming summit of the group, Wenda said.
The joint Indonesia-Vanuatu foreign ministers media statement from Jakarta. Video: MoFA Indonesia
Jakarta announces ‘development steering committee’
RNZ Pacific reports that the joint talks between Vanuatu and Indonesia this week had West Papua high on the agenda
The talks have come amid tensions in the region, and ahead of a state visit next month to Papua New Guinea by Indonesian President Joko Widodo.
Indonesia’s state-owned news agency Antara reports Vice-President Amin meeting with Minister Napat in Jakarta on Monday.
Vanuatu has strongly supported the pro-independence push in West Papua for many years and Antara reports the issue of conflict in the Melanesian region was discussed.
Amin announced a Papua Special Autonomy Development Acceleration Steering Committee had been formed to evaluate development in the Papua region.
“The granting of this special autonomy has been planned for the long term up to 2042,” he said.
Amin said Indonesia “respected the diversity” in West Papua.
Republished from Asia Pacific Report.