Indonesia and Vanuatu clash over West Papua at UN
by Mathias Hariyadi

The prime minister of the Melanesian nation accuses Jakarta of violating the human rights of indigenous Papuans. Indonesia replies by accusing Vanuatu of causing hatred among local Papuans and discrediting Indonesia's reputation in the international community by raising human rights issues to support separatist movements.

New York (AsiaNews) – In recent years, Vanuatu has become a political obstacle for Indonesia’s diplomatic mission to the UN due to its criticism of Jakarta’s human rights record.

The Prime Minister of the small country, Bob Loughman, renewed his attacks in a pre-recorded video address at the 75th session of the United Nations General Assembly earlier this week.

“The indigenous people of (Indonesian) West Papua continue to suffer from human rights abuses," he said in his speech.

“Last year leaders from the Pacific Islands Forum respectfully called on the Indonesian government to allow the United Nations Office of the Human Rights Commissioner to visit West Papua province. To date there has been little progress on this front.

“I therefore call on the Indonesian government to please heed the previous call of Pacific leaders.”

The claims of the Prime Minister of Vanuatu are not very "new" to the Indonesian government, but they fuel existing political tensions with this small Pacific island nation.

Both Jakarta and its representatives in New York have railed against Loughman's criticism.

An Indonesian diplomat responded by saying that such criticism clearly shows the “excessive and unhealthy obsession” over West Papua only because indigenous Papuans and the population in Vanuatu share the same Melanesian ethnicity.

Mr Loughman is accused of interfering in Indonesian internal affairs, especially when Vanuatu expressed concern over Jakarta's lack of action and commitment to address human rights abuses against indigenous Papuans.

A young diplomat from Indonesia's permanent mission at the United Nations, Silvany Austin Pasaribu, slammed Vanuatu for failing to respect the UN charter and its principle of non-interference in the domestic affairs of other countries.

"So until you have done so, please keep the sermon to yourself," she said, adding that unlike Indonesia, Vanuatu has not ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.

In her view, West Papua’s incorporation into Indonesia is final despite “this ignorant country (Vanuatu) chooses the contrary.”

She goes on to blame Vanuatu for sowing divisions among Papuans in order to discredit Indonesia’s reputation in the international community, raising human rights issues and supporting separatist movements through its fanciful concern for human rights.

A few days after the speech of the Vanuatu prime minister, Indonesian police forces broke up a peaceful protest by students at Cendrawasih University in Jayapura, capital of Indonesia’s Papua province, who are opposed to the renewal of the Law on special autonomy in Papua, which expires next year.

Pictured: indigenous Papuans in the Diocese of Agats