Vanuatu defends boycott of MSG mission | Asia Pacific

Vanuatu defends boycott of MSG mission

Vanuatu defends boycott of MSG mission

Updated 16 January 2014, 12:35 AEDT

Vanuatu's Foreign Minister Edward Natapei says the Melanesian Spearhead Group is split over the issue of membership for the West Papua National Coalition for Liberation.

He says it is now unlikely the Vanuatu-based West Papuan separatist group will be admitted as a full member. Last week Mr Natapei boycotted an MSG foreign ministers mission to Indonesia, saying it's agenda had been hijacked by Jakarta. But he says Vanuatu won't be giving up on its quest to have the West Papuans admitted.

Interviewer: Hiliare Bule

Edward Natapei, Foreign Minister of Vanuatu

NATAPEI: Soon after the meeting, the MSG meeting in New Caledonia, we had actually made it very clear to the MSG leaders and the government of Indonesia that we were going to participate only if the visit involved civil society in West Papua, and if in the visit we will be given the opportunity to speak to civil society, the church leaders and people who actually were concerned about human rights violations in West Papua. So we had made that clear to the Indonesian authorities, and to the MSG Secretariat. Just one day before we were to depart Vanuatu to travel to Indonesia, we got the program of the visit, which neglected, it did not involve a meeting with civil society, it did not involve a meeting with the West Papuan people, the leadership in West Papua, who are concerned about human rights and who could give us more information about the West Papua National Coalition for Liberation that is based in Vanuatu. We realised that in fact it was being hijacked by the government of Indonesia to work on another issue, which was to promote economic ties and development cooperation with the government of Indonesia. We felt that we were going to fail in the mission.

BULE: Do you think that it is necessary to plan for another visit?

NATAPEI: I do not believe it's going to be worth trying to organise another meeting to Indonesia. Perhaps another alternative or another option would be to actually organise to meet with the leaders of West Papua at a different venue.

BULE: There were also some MSG countries who were not sharing the same view as Vanuatu. Do you think that MSG is still one on the issue of the independence of West Papua?

NATAPEI: I think it is going to be difficult this time round basically because after the MSG meeting in New Caledonia there were some other visits organised by Indonesia where they invited the head of the government of Fiji, head of the government of Papua New Guinea, in fact Papua New Guinea Prime Minister was in Indonesia during the MSG meeting in New Caledonia, and much later the Prime Minister of the Solomon Islands was also in Indonesia. Now Vanuatu is going to still push ahead for the admittance of the West Papua National Coalition for Liberation to be admitted as a member of the MSG, but considering that the three leaders of MSG have been in Indonesia and they have entered into some agreements with the government of Indonesia, I believe it's going to be a lot more difficult this time to try and push this agenda forward. But that is not to say that Vanuatu will give up, Vanuatu will continue to push for membership of the WPNCL in the MSG, membership of the MSG.

BULE: It has … West Papuan was arrested during the visit of the MSG ministerial meeting in West Papua?

NATAPEI: Yes we are also very concerned about that. We believe that the reason West Papuans were put on this demonstration was basically because they knew that the visit was not going to achieve what the MSG had set out to achieve. And so they are protesting because they are not involved in the visit and they were not allowed to meet the MSG leaders during the visit.

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