25 May 2005

Vanuatu PM blames Indonesian flag incident on foreign elements

3:56 pm on 25 May 2005

Vanuatu's Prime Minister has blamed "foreign elements" for an incident last week where the Indonesian flag on the vehicle of Jakarta's ambassador to Port Vila was replaced with the Papuan independence flag.

Ambassador Imron Cotan has used his visit to Vanuatu to suggest Indonesia become a member of the Melanesian Spearhead Group.

Mr Cotan says that with 12 million Melanesians in Indonesia, it's only logical for his country to be included in the MSG.

But the suggestion may be unpopular in a country which has long supported the struggle for independence by their Melanesian cousins in Indonesia's Papua province.

However, our correpsondent, Len Garae, says Vanuatu prime minister Ham Lini has come out very clearly as saying foreign elements instigated last Thursday's incident.

"The protestors of the Vanuatu Free West Papua Movement accosted the Indonesian ambassador's car, removed the Indonesian flag from the car, gave it back to the ambassador and told him they do not want the Indonesia flag but the West Papua flag, and went as far as covering the Indonesian ambassador's car with the flag."

Len Garae in Port Vila.