Vanuatu wants International Court to decide on West Papua
ABC Radio Australia
Updated June 21, 2010 17:02:57
Vanuatu's parliament has unanimously passed a motion calling for the International Court of Justice to investigate the the legality of West Papua becoming part of Indonesia. The motion was jointly sponsored by prime minister Edward Natapei and opposition leader Maxime Carlot Korman.
It will see the country ask the UN General Assembly to direct the international court to look into the manner in which the mainly Melanesian and Christian western half of New Guinea island was incorporated into the Asian and Islamic country of Indonesia in the 1960s.
The passage of the motion by all Vanuatu MPs has been welcomed by the diplomatic representative of the Free Papua Movement in Port Vila, Andy Ayamiseba. He tells Bruce Hill that other Melanesian countries may well follow Vanuatu's example soon.
Presenter: Bruce Hill
Speaker: Andy Ayamiseba, from the West Papua Freedom Movement diplomatic office in Vanuatu
AYAMISEBA: We had been struggling alone for over 40 years, very lonely, nobody and it is very hard to break the zero, Vanuatu has finally and officially passed this motion that specify clearly that Vanuatu is going to test the legality of the incorporation and want to revisit the case in the court of justice through the United Nations General Assembly.
HILL: Well, the Vanuatu Government is going to request the United Nations General Assembly to take this up, because of this motion passed in parliament, that does not guarantee the United Nations is going to do anything about it. In fact, the odds are stacked heavily against the UN doing anything, isn't it?
AYAMISEBA: That is correct, but what the motion specify is that Vanuatu is going to ask the secretary-general to put it in an agenda item for this session, this year, and the particular request is to question to legality.
HILL: But this is only Vanuatu asking this. It is only one country, a fairly small country at that. Other countries involved, Papua New Guinea, Australia, Indonesia obviously and possibly even the Government of the Netherlands, the former colonial power really have shown no desire to reopen this whole colonial era can of worms, have they? They won't want this to go ahead?
AYAMISEBA: That is correct, but they have to be a start somewhere, anywhere. I think Vanuatu is also a member of many, many grouping of countries, including the non-aligned movement, so there will be automatically an action plan by the Vanuatu Government.
HILL: West Papua was incorporated into the Republic of Indonesia. It has been part of Indonesia for decades now. Indonesia is a strong country. It has already lost East Timor. It is in no mood to lose another part of its country. You really not going to succeed in detaching West Papua from Indonesia, are you?
AYAMISEBA: For us it doesn't really matter what people say. What about the balance of power? We are not Indonesian you see, so no matter any international law against our future or whatever, but we don't feel ourself as Indonesian, so it is our fate.
HILL: Do you think that the Vanuatu Government might be courting international disaster by standing out from the rest like this and criticising Indonesia? Don't you think the Indonesians might get a little ticked off at Vanuatu and take some sort of revenge internationally, perhaps through trade?
AYAMISEBA: There is not much trade between Indonesia and Vanuatu anyway.
HILL: Is it just Vanuatu that is very concerned about this or is there widespread support for this in other Melanesian countries as well?
AYAMISEBA: Well, I believe that there is a big move in Papua New Guinea at the moment with the young generations of the politicians who are looking the opposite of the old guard and the old chief, so in the Solomons as well and I believe in Fiji the same thing, so the Melanesian is going to form a block to support West Papua this time.
HILL: Other Melanesian countries in particular Papua New Guinea have shown no enthusiasm for taking on the Indonesians. After all, they have got a very long land border with Indonesia?
AYAMISEBA: Yeah, I think that is the view of Somare and more of his members but now we have contact with number of high profile politicians in Papua New Guinea. Their view are different.
HILL: So you think what's happening in Vanuatu today might be happening in Solomon Islands and PNG tomorrow?
AYAMISEBA: I am very confident this action of Vanuatu will have a reaction in other parts of Melanesia.
HILL: Meanwhile, what do you think Indonesia might do if that starts happening, if the Melanesian bloc countries really start having a go at Indonesia over West Papua, do you think they will sit idly by?
AYAMISEBA: Oh yeah, I mean this is politics. We're not declaring a war. I mean if we are an independent state next to Indonesia, it would serve the Indonesians better than now. Like it or not, we will be living side by side forever. They need us. We need them. They are our market economy. We supply them with the raw material.