Doddy Morris, Port Vila – The controversial multimilion dollar funding that Indonesia is providing to Vanuatu comes in response to a request made by the Vanuatu government, says the Indonesian Ambassador of Indonesia to Vanuatu and Australia.
According to Ambassador Siswo Pramono, the Vanuatu government requested the Indonesian government to send humanitarian aid and renovate the VIP Lounge at Bauerfield Airport following the devastation caused by cyclones Judy and Kevin in March this year.
"This is why we offer help to Vanuatu, because of the letter the Minister of Foreign Affairs in Vanuatu sent to us," he said. "We are not going to send aid if there is no letter of request."
Pramono was responding to questions from the media concerning Vanuatu civil society accusations that their country should not receive aid from Indonesia in the form of development and relief supplies.
These claims were made on social media platforms. There are public concerns from critics in Vanuatu that the people in West Papua are still suffering and it is "not acceptable" to accept funds from Indonesia.Pramono said Indonesia was going to spend 110 million vatu (NZ$1.6 million) to repair the airport as requested by the Vanuatu government. "It's not natural, we are requested to do so," he said.
'Nothing to do with West Papua'
"[It has] nothing to do with the West Papua movement because we also give our aid to Africans and Europeans and many other developing countries. West Papua is a domestic issue in Indonesia, we are going to solve it at the national level."
He said that during the groundbreaking ceremony for the renovation of the VIP lounge, Foreign Affairs Minister Matai Seremiah also explained to the public that this symbolised friendship between Indonesia and Vanuatu.
The architecture and design of the airport would reflect both the Melanesian culture of Vanuatu and that of Indonesia.
"The design has been approved by the Vanuatu government so step by step the Indonesian government is working with the government of Vanuatu," he said.
Abdul Kadir Jailani, Indonesia's Director-General for Asia Pacific and African Affairs, also revealed that the priority of foreign policy of Indonesia was to elevate engagement with Pacific countries through cooperation with the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG).
He reaffirmed that as part of their commitment to supporting the MSG, they were going to identify certain initiatives that would be carried out bilaterally.
"Our relationship with the MSG and bilateralism go hand in hand; delivery is always made in a bilateral framework, and Indonesia also agrees to help MSG build its capacity by contributing annually and providing cars among other things," he said.
Indonesia 'a Melanesian country'
"Indonesia considers itself as a Melanesian country, we have 13 million Melanesians in Indonesia, the most populated country with Melanesian people," he said.
"We continue in assisting Vanuatu because we think this is what we should do as Pacific neighbours and brothers, so this is the time for us to engage with them," he said.
He said Indonesia valued the importance of having good relations with all Pacific countries.
"At the end of last year, we had a forum called it Indonesia Pacific Development Forum, and on the forum, we coordinated and consolidated international support for the Pacific," he said."The main objective for having this forum is how to strengthen development cooperation with Pacific countries.
"The rationale is more about [that] we really want to have a high relationship between Indonesia and the Pacific as we want to grow together because we think that the future belongs to us," Jailani said.
[Doddy Morris is a Vanuatu Daily Post reporter. Republished with permission.]