By Len Garae in Port Vila
Former Vanuatu Prime Minister Joe Natuman says allowing Indonesia — by former Prime Minister Sato Kilman — into the Melanesian Spearhead Group was a mistake.
“We (Melanesians) have a moral obligation to support West Papua’s struggle in line with our forefathers’ call, including first former Prime Minister Father Walter Lini, Chief Bongmatur, and others,” he said.
“Vanuatu has cut its canoe over 40 years ago and successfully sailed into the Ocean of Independence and in the same spirit, we must help our brothers and sisters in the United Liberation Movement of West Papua (ULMWP) to cut their canoe, raise the sail and also help them sail into the same future for the Promised Land.”
The former prime minister graced the West Papua lobby team on its appointment with the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Jotham Napat, this week when he agreed to an interview to confirm his support for the West Papua struggle as above and admitted the mistake.
During their discussions with the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Natuman thanked the Minister and Minister for Climate Change Ralph Regenvanu and Prime Minister Ishmael Kalsakau for their united stand for the United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP) to achieve full membership into the Melanesian Spearhead Group.
“When we created MSG, it was a political organisation before economic and other interests were added,” he said.
“After our independence on July 30 of 1980, heads of different political parties in New Caledonia started visiting Port Vila to learn how to stand up strong to challenge France for their freedom.
“I joined the team this week because I was involved under then Prime Minister Father Walter Lini. We advised the political leaders of New Caledonia at the time to form one political umbrella organisation to argue their case, and they formed the FLNKS (Kanak and Socialist National Liberation Front).
“We created ULMWP in 2014 here in Port Vila, to become your political umbrella organisation. After the child that we helped to create, we must continue to work with it to develop it towards its destiny.”
Like the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Natuman challenged both the government and the lobby team to continue to press for ULMWP victory with all MSG leaders unanimously voting West Papua in as the latest full member of MSG.
“But now that Indonesia is inside, it is not interested in the ULMWP issue but its own interests. So we must be careful here.
“We have passed resolutions regarding human rights and the United Nations have agreed for the UN Human Rights Commissioner to visit West Papua to report on the situation on the ground and Jakarta has blocked the visit,” he said.
Natuman challenged the government over whether to allow Indonesia to continue to behave towards MSG by ignoring the ULMWP demands.
Meanwhile, then Prime Minister Kilman had the same reasoning for allowing Indonesia into the MSG believing that the occupier would sit on the same table to be allowed to discuss the West Papua dilemma.
However, it did not work out.
Hopes for Fiji
In the latest development, Natuman thinks new Fiji Prime Minister Sitiveni Rabuka is not going to govern in the same manner as former prime minister Voreqe Bainimarama, now that he had ordered the revival of Fiji’s Great Council of Chiefs which his predecessor had revoked.
“I also think Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare (of the Solomon Islands) still stands in support of ULMWP. I think the Foreign Affairs Minister of Papua New Guinea has to talk to Prime Minister James Marape,” he added.
In his opinion, based on Vanuatu Foreign Minister Napat’s briefing to the lobby team this week, the MSG Secretariat seemed to “follow every line to the book” regarding the ULMWP application for full membership of MSG.
“There is no need for the Committee of Officials to control the processes towards a positive outcome to the ULMWP Application. I suggest that you recommend to the Prime Minister to revisit the process,” Natuman suggested.
“At the Leaders’ Summit, it is the (MSG) Leaders who decide what to talk about in their meeting and do not allow ‘smol-smol man’ to dictate to you what or how you should talk about in your meeting.”
In addition, he said he was a member of an Eminent Group made up of Ambassador Kaliopate Tavola of Fiji, Roch Wamytan of FLNKS of New Caledonia and Solomons Prime Minister Sogavare who produced an MSG Report.
“In the report we suggested that it was good that Indonesia came in and I personally recommended a Melanesian Nakamal Concept which in Polynesia and Fiji, it is called Talanoa (process),” Natuman continued.
“This would allow Indonesia to sit down within a Melanesian umbrella to discuss their issues. Such a session should be chaired by an independent person such as a church leader or chief.
“The report is there and it should allow Indonesia to talk about their human right issues. Indonesia could use the avenue to hear ULMWP’s view on their proposed autonomy in West Papua.”
Indonesia could also bring in their other supporters to place their issues on the table for discussion.
Foreign Affairs Minister Napat recommended his “top to the bottom” approach instead of from a bottom up approach, allowing the ‘smol-smol man’ to dictate to the leaders how to make their decisions.
Len Garae is a Vanuatu Daily Post journalist. Republished with permission.