Two members of parliament from Vanuatu’s opposition have joined a government party in a move described as being good for West Papua.
The leader of the Vanua’aku Pati, Joe Natuman, welcomed the pair into the country’s oldest political party at a kava ceremony in Port Vila.
It meant the party now has eight MPs, making it the biggest party in the coalition government led by Charlot Salwai.
Mr Natuman, who is the Deputy Prime Minister, said the move by the two MPs would help mitigate efforts to undermine Vanuatu’s interests on West Papua.
He was referring to moves by the People’s Progress Party leader Sato Kilman in forging closer ties with Indonesia, in spite of his country’s long-running support for West Papuan independence.
According to Mr Natuman, Mr Kilman’s previous actions when in government, including supporting Indonesia’s entry to the Melanesian Spearhead Group, were not good for Papua.
Mr Kilman recently told RNZ Pacific that in his view the best way to address human rights issues in West Papua was to maintain dialogue with Jakarta.
However he criticised Mr Salwai’s government for being inconsistent on foreign policy issues.