- Compiled by Kizzy Kalsakau and Jason Abel,
Vanuatu Daily Post
The Government of Indonesia has criticized Vanuatu for including a West Papuan leader and the United Liberal Movement for the people of West Papua (ULMWP) chairman, Benny Wenda in its delegation to a meeting with U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet.
“Indonesia strongly condemns Vanuatu’s action, which deliberately deceived the High Commissioner by taking manipulative steps through the infiltration of Benny Wenda into the Vanuatu delegation,” Hasan Kleib, Indonesian Ambassador to the UN in Geneva, said in a press statement published on Wednesday in The Jakarta Post.
But Vanuatu’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ralph Regenvanu has dismissed the accusations.
In a telephone interview with Buzz 96FM yesterday afternoon, Minister Regenvanu said the Government of Vanuatu has always maintain its stand and support behind the self-determination for the West Papua movement.
“Vanuatu recently reaffirmed its commitment and celebrated the establishment of the ULMWP movement by hosting a meeting here some years ago, as well as giving land for the ULMWP office,” said Mr Regenvanu.
The Foreign Affairs Minister stressed that the Vanuatu government’s position status remains in assisting the people of West Papua in their struggle to decolonize.
In regards to the comment made by the Indonesian government, Minister Regenvanu said one of the ways Vanuatu is doing to address this is by allowing representatives of the ULMWP movement to enter and be part of the Vanuatu delegation when attending UN meetings, and especially one where Vanuatu had a meeting with the UN Human Rights Commissioner.
“It is an opportunity for the ULMWP to raise the issue of West Papua with the UN, because essentially it is unfinished business for the UN and there are very few avenues that West Papuan people can use to bring their fight to attention or continue to bring their fight into the attention of the International Community so Vanuatu will continue to assist them in doing this,” said Minister Regenvanu.
“Vanuatu doesn’t regard the West Papua movement or ULMWP as different or as a separatist movement, which is what the Indonesians has labelled and considered it as a case of territory, which is never properly decolonized by the UN,” said Mr Regenvanu.
Minister Regenvanu affirmed that whenever Vanuatu has a delegation to a UN’s meeting, it is a process for Vanuatu and other countries to submit an accreditation note which lists all the members of the delegation who are going be part of the official delegation.
Mr Regenvanu further confirmed that the ULMWP chairman, Benny Wenda was officially accredited in the Vanuatu delegation to the UN meeting.
The sequence of events leading up to Indonesia’s recent criticism are covered in an article by the Associated Press (AP): “Activists in Indonesia’s mountainous jungle-clad Papua region risked imprisonment to collect 1.8 million signatures for a petition calling for self-determination but had a final dilemma: They were blocked from presenting it to the intended recipient, the United Nations.
“An attempt to present the petition in 2017 to the U.N. committee responsible for monitoring the progress of colonized territories toward independence was rebuffed.
“Last week they succeeded, aided by the diplomatic equivalent of a wink and a nod from the tiny Pacific island nation of Vanuatu, which has been championing the Papuan cause.
“Vanuatu officials had a scheduled meeting last Friday in Geneva with the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights.
“Among them was an exiled Papuan leader, Benny Wenda, who presented a petition with 1.8 million signatures calling for self-determinationto Bachelet.
“During this meeting, one member of the Vanuatu delegation, Mr. Benny Wenda, presented the high commissioner with a petition. This was not actually a meeting arranged with Mr. Wenda for that purpose,” said Ravina Shamdasani, deputy spokeswoman at the U.N. Human Rights Office.
According to The Associated Press report, the deputy spokeswoman said Bachelet “was not aware” in advance.
The ULMWP sent The Associated Press a photo of Wenda passing the petition to a smiling Bachelet.
It was then that Indonesia reacted angrily, accusing Vanuatu of “taking manipulative steps through the infiltration of Benny Wenda into the Vanuatu delegation.”