Tempotimor (New York) = Vanuatu firmly condemned during the UN General Assembly the ongoing violations of human rights against the indigenous people of West Papua. The Solomon Islands called in a public session for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to go directly to West Papua, as human rights violations escalated. Vanuatu supported this call on the UN podium.
The calls of the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu are in accordance with the decision at the fiftieth Pacific Island Forum meeting 13-16 August 2019 in Tuvalu, where 18 Pacific nations unanimously agreed to call for a UN visit to West Papua, to investigate human rights violations in the territory.
Later Vanuatu also called for ‘the right of self-determination for New Caledonia, French Polynesia and West Papua, as well as calling on the United Nations to ensure their rights are implemented,’ Vanuatu’s prime minister Charlot Salwai said at the 74th UN General Assembly on Friday, 27 September 2019.
Twenty years ago the Indonesian government was accused of committing human rights abuses in Timor-Leste. Today several Melanesian countries are accusing Jakarta of committing atrocities in West Papua and call on the West Papuans to keep fighting for their rights as recognised in international law.
Tempo Timor (TT) spoke with Vanuatu’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ralph Regenvanu (RR).
TT: What is Vanuatu’s position with regard to West Papua?
RR : ‘We consider that West Papua was never decolonized. It was a colony of The Netherlands and then it was passed on to become a colony of Indonesia. Unlike most people in the world they never had a chance to decide their own future, which is a universal human right. The people of West Papua need to be given the chance to exercise their right to decide their own future.’
TT: Will Vanuatu be able to convince other governments to push for a visit of the UN to West Papua?
RR: ‘The human rights situation is very bad in West Papua. No outside media are allowed in. No UN bodies are allowed in. No human rights NGOs are allowed in. So the first step that needs to be taken is for the UN Human Rights Commissioner to go, to visit, to study and to report to the world what is happening with regard to the human rights situation in West Papua, because that is the most important thing.
Human rights are a basic fundamental principal which the international community has set up to uphold. We believe that Indonesia is not upholding the rights of West Papua, and so the UN needs to address this situation. The first thing the UN has to do is a proper independent and impartial assessment of what is actually happening.’
TT: What is Vanuatu’s message to the international community with regard to West Papua?
RR: ‘There are human rights violations being committed in West Papua. Some scholars qualify it as genocide as defined by international law and criteria. So it is a very serious situation. The international community has an obligation to address human right crises anywhere. They can act in some places, but unfortunately they seem to ignore West Papua. So I’m asking to the international community to pay attention to the human rights situation in West Papua as it does in another countries in the world.’