Vanuatu elder statesman slams Abbott's comments
The first president of Vanuatu slams comments by Australia's prime minister, Tony Abbott, that he would clamp down on West Papuan activists.
The first president of Vanuatu, Ati George Sokomanu, has condemned comments by the Australian prime minister, Tony Abbott, that he would clamp down on West Papuan activists.
The Australian newspaper reports Mr Abbott saying in Bali that people seeking to grandstand against Indonesia are not welcome in Australia.
Mr Sokomanu says Mr Abbott needs to explain such a statement to Pacific leaders.
Speaking to Hilaire Bule, he asks whether Australia is sacrificing its relationships with the Pacific to make friends with Indonesia.
(Above: a Free West Papua demonstration in Melbourne, 2012)
ATI GEORGE SOKOMANU: The option that I can see now is for Australia to really say whether they support what they're doing for the Pacific Island nations or they support West Papua. My question to them is are they sacrificing the people of the Pacific Island nations for the sake of making friends with the government of Indonesia?
HILAIRE BULE: You have illegal immigrants from West Papua going to Australia and you have human rights abuses in West Papua - what is the most important?
AGS: The most important is human rights. If they breach whatever rules, whatever laws they have, as far as immigration is concerned with Australia, that's according to the law of Australia, but for the rights of the people of West Papua it is something which I think the Australian government should not merely chuck away, but to put it on the agenda and to push the government of Indonesia about it, to talk to the government of Indonesia about it, because we are all equal in some ways as far as the status of nationalism is concerned. But Australia being one of our closest neighbours, including New Zealand, I think for the sake of the people of West Papua, with their rights, I think Australia and New Zealand should look more at supporting their views and doing whatever they can to help these people to achieve their independence.
HB: If Australia is accusing West Papua of this because they're afraid of Indonesia.
AGS: I see that. The worry that Australia has, it's not only that the population of Indonesia is greater than Australia, even the Pacific. If war is declared... But Australia should also realise that it has allies, and those allies include people in the Pacific, the Pacific Island nations. And the other part, with the way that the refugees from Indonesia do rely on coming to Australia, we've got to look at that, too, because I don't think it's Indonesians themselves, but there are people from other parts of the world using Indonesia to come and live in Australia. So that is also a problem that Australia is worried about, and I feel that it needs dialogue. And dialogue will only come from the leaders. And only then something could be achieved for the people of West Papua.
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