31 Jan 2003

Vanuatu says it may allow Papuans to open a Port Vila embassy despite Jakarta threats

4:53 pm on 31 January 2003

Vanuatu has indicated that it may allow Papuan separatists to open an embassy in Port Vila despite threats from Indonesia that it will sever diplomatic ties.

The government's spokesperson, Daniel Bangtor, says the Papuan request is in line with Vanuatu's longstanding support to territories seeking independence

He says Vanuatu's support goes back before its own independence in 1980.

Mr Bangtor says as an independent country, Vanuatu has right to allow Papuans to open an embassy in Port Vila.

"It's a gesture of support towards the West Papuans and to comply with our foreign supply to support territories still struggling to gain their independence. We can understand the Indonesian government is concerned about its sovereignty, likewise as a sovereign state the Vanuatu governemnt must be concerned about its sovereign power to make its own decision."

Daniel Bangtor says his government believes that there is still room for dialogue on the Papuan embassy issue.

Mr Bangtor was unwilling to comment on Vanuatu being party to an agreement with other Pacific Island Forum members to recognise Indonesia's sovereignty over Papua.

The international spokesman for the Papuan separatists, John Ondawame, says Indonesia has no business interfering in any decision by Vanuatu to allow his movement to open an office in the country.

Mr Ondawame says Indonesia will be growing anxious because the West Papua issue is no longer an isolated one but an international one.

A government, like Indonesia, to interfere in the internal policy of Vanuatu is completely wrong. Indonesia must withdraw its statement and allow the Papuans to establish their own office in Vanuatu to inform the people about the truth of the violation of the environment and human rights back to 1969 during the so-called Act of Free Choice.

Mr John Ondawame.