Single goal for Vanuatu civil society summit – support West Papua

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PIANGO executive director Emele Duituturaga (left) consulting with Vanuatu civil society representative Lai Sakita. Image: Len Garae/Vanuatu Daily Post

By Len Garae in Port Vila

A West Papuan delegation has come to a regional civil society forum with a single goal in mind – full membership for the United Liberation Movement for West Papua in the Melanesian Spearhead Group.

Emele Duituturaga, executive director of the Pacific Islands Association of Non-Government Organisations (PIANGO), said this in an exclusive interview after launching the two-day forum yesterday, adding:”We hope that at the end of our forum, the meeting will endorse that and that will be our goal.”

The West Papua delegation also suggested that Indonesia should not be a member of the MSG. And so the issue of “who and what is a Melanesian” is being discussed amid reports of hundreds of Papuans being arrested in a mass Indonesian crackdown.

The theme of the forum is decolonisation.

“We see Indonesia as colonising West Papua in the same way that we are supporting the movement of Kanaky for independence [from France]. And so it is broadly self-determination and decolonisation,” she said.

The West Papuans insist that ULMWP are the rightful leaders of West Papua because of critical suggestions from some quarters that ULMWP are “external” and not representative of West Papua.

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“But there is evidence [to the contrary] and this delegation here today actually came from inside West Papua and they’ve come to call for external international intervention, they’ve come to talk about the genocide that is happening in West Papua.

“We’re going to discuss what we are going to do about it,” Duituturaga said.

Special envoy
“When Vanuatu’s Special Envoy on West Papua, MP Johnny Koanapo, said West Papua was in the blood of the ni-Vanuatu when he launched our Civil Society Organisation Parallel Forum at Owen Hall at Independence Park yesterday, there was a feeling of elation, a real assurance of the leadership role that Vanuatu has been the beacon of hope, the symbol of independence (for West Papua).”

She said it was a joy for PIANGO to note that despite Vanuatu’s internal political challenges, the country’s focus on West Papua had not shifted as confirmed by MP Koanapo’s words.

The MP, who used to be director-general of Foreign Affairs, welcomed the involvement of the civil society forum on the call for West Papua to become a full member of MSG, saying the Vanuatu government also needed the support of civil society on West Papua.

Before he became MP, Koanapo was instrumental in writing the staunch speech of former Prime Minister Moana Carcasses at the UN General Assembly, condemning reports of human rights abuse against Melanesians by the Indonesian military in West Papua.

PIANGO as the umbrella organisation of 21 Pacific Island countries and territories, is at the forefront of West Papua becoming a full member of MSG, Duituturaga said.

‘Missionary report’
In addition she said there was a march and a launch of the “shadow missionary report” in Suva, Fiji yesterday, which had been conducted by the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace.

The same report would be launched in Port Vila today.

“It was launched in Brisbane last Sunday then Fiji and now Vanuatu,” she said.

“This is in direct response to the Pacific Islands Forum leaders’ decision to send a fact-finding mission to West Papua.

“But now it is heading for the middle of the year and the mission has not taken place because Indonesia has not responded.

“So civil society had committed that we would not wait for the government as this is the second report of human rights violations in West Papua and we want to bring it to the attention of our leaders.”

Len Garae is a senior journalist with the Vanuatu Daily Post.

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