23 Dec 2002

Vanuatu Government maintains commitment to Papuan independence movement despite Australian criticism

4:49 pm on 23 December 2002

The Vanuatu Government has reiterated its commitment to helping the independence struggle in the Indonesia province of Papua.

Last week, during a short visit to Vanuatu, the Australia Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer, attacked the recent opening of an office for the separatist movement in Port Vila.

Australia has long supported Indonesia's territorial integrity and Mr Downer said in Vanuatu that changes to Indonesia's boundaries would lead to bloodshed.

The international spokesman for the OPM, Dr John Ondawame, has accused Mr Downer of hypocrisy, saying that blood had already been spilt and many Papuan lives lost in the name of stability.

The separatists' office was established with the assistance of the Vanuatu Government and its spokesman, Daniel Bangtor, says they remain committed to assisting territories that are not independent.

"I think that the Minister of Foreign Affairs reiterated the government's stand to the Foreign Minister, that the Government's foreign policy on the situation like the West Papuan is that they should be given the necessary assistance to gain their independence."