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Letters on West Papua - 'united voices for justice will not be silenced'

Asia Pacific Report - September 3, 2023

Vanuatu Daily Post civil society correspondents have written in unison condemning the failure of the Melanesian Spearhead Group to admit West Papua as full members of the organisation at last month's leaders' summit in Port Vila.

The Australia West Papua Association (AWPA) says that "it's tragic that the MSG leaders did not respond" to the call of the Melanesian grassroots that took to the streets in support of West Papua memnbership.

"Many [West Papuans] were arrested, and beaten as they rallied peacefully," wrote Joe Collins, spokesperson for AWPA, who was in Port Vila for the leaders' summit.

"Free West Papua" criticised the "strategic move by Indonesia to sway opinion among Pacific island nations".

"The fear is that this could be an attempt to showcase Indonesia in a positive light, downplaying the grave issues [of human rights violations] in West Papua."

The letter also criticised a plan to open an Indonesian embassy in Vanuatu, cloaming such a move "could serve as a platform to exert influence and suppress the ongoing struggle for justice and freedom in West Papua".

Some of the letters:

MSG has failed West Papua: Regenvanu

"It's not just [Climate Change Minister Ralph] Regenvanu, who believes that the MSG failed West Papua at their summit. It's every West Papuan and their supporters who also feel let down by the MSG leaders.

"Over the past few months in West Papua, the grassroots took to the streets showing support for the United Liberation Movement For West Papua (ULPWP's) application and calling on the MSG to grant full membership to West Papua. Many were arrested, and beaten as they rallied peacefully.

"It's tragic that the MSG Leaders did not respond to their call. Do the MSG leaders not read the reports of the ongoing human rights abuses in West Papua?

"If the MSG Leaders failed West Papua, the people of the Pacific and Vanuatu in particular do not. In the few days I spent in Port Vila, I saw support for West Papua everywhere.

"The West Papuan flag flying free and Free West Papuan stickers on walls. I was impressed with the support and kindness of the Vanuatu people and the Vanuatu Free West Papua Association who help keep the struggle alive.

"The West Papuan representatives, who had their own summit, showed a determined people committed to their freedom. Something the leaders of the region should note. The issue of West Papua is not going away."

– Joe Collins, Australia West Papua Association, Sydney, VDP, August 31, 2023

Indonesian funding

"The funding Indonesia is providing Vanuatu (VDP, August 24), is that a case of chequebook diplomacy to blunt Vanuatu's solidarity with West Papua's struggle against Indonesian colonial occupation and oppression?"

– Rajend Naidu, Sydney, VDP, August 25, 2023

Indonesian 'trail of violence'

"The chairman of the Vanuatu Free West Papua Association (VFWPA) delivered a poignant statement that resonates with the deep concerns shared by the people of Vanuatu.

"For over five decades, the Indonesian military's actions in West Papua have left a trail of violence and human rights abuses. The chairman's statement underscores the lasting impact of these killings and highlights the passionate support of Vanuatu for the people of West Papua.

"The Melanesian Arts Festival, a cultural celebration of the region's diversity, became a stage for diplomatic tension as Indonesia's uninvited presence raised eyebrows. The chairman's remarks revealed a resolute belief that this unexpected appearance was not merely coincidental, but a strategic move by Indonesia to sway opinion among Pacific island nations.

"The fear is that this could be an attempt to showcase Indonesia in a positive light, downplaying the grave issues in West Papua.

"Moreover, Indonesia's reported plans to open an embassy in Vanuatu raise further suspicions about their intentions.

"Concerns are mounting that such a move could serve as a platform to exert influence and suppress the ongoing struggle for justice and freedom in West Papua.

"The people of Vanuatu, however, remain steadfast in their support for their brothers and sisters in West Papua. Despite potential political and financial pressures, they refuse to turn a blind eye to the human rights violations that have plagued the region for far too long.

"The chairman's statement reflects the sentiments of a nation determined to stand united against injustice.

"This unwavering support from Vanuatu is a testament to the power of solidarity among Pacific island nations. It sends a strong message to the international community that human rights and justice cannot be compromised for political gains or financial interests.

"The situation in West Papua demands attention, and the people of Vanuatu have vowed to be a voice for those who have been silenced.

"As the saga unfolds, the eyes of the world are on Vanuatu, watching how the nation navigates this delicate diplomatic dance. Their commitment to supporting West Papua's quest for justice and freedom remains resolute, and they must navigate this situation with tact and conviction.

"In times of adversity, the bonds of brotherhood are tested, and Vanuatu has proven that their ties with West Papua go beyond borders. Their stance is a reminder that human rights violations should never be brushed aside or obscured by political maneuvers.

"It is a call for action, urging the global community to stand alongside Vanuatu and West Papua in their pursuit of justice.

"As we continue to witness the developments in this complex situation, the world awaits with bated breath to see how Vanuatu's unwavering support for West Papua will unfold. Will their resolute determination inspire others to join their cause, or will political pressures prevail?

"Only time will tell, but one thing remains clear: the voices of Vanuatu and West Papua will not be silenced, and their pursuit of justice and freedom will persist until it is achieved."

– "Free West Papua", VDP, July 29, 2023

Source: https://asiapacificreport.nz/2023/09/03/letters-on-west-papua-united-voices-for-justice-will-not-be-silenced