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Vanuatu Police Arrest 24 Protesters in Crackdown on Demo against Indonesian Ties

May 17, 2012

From Joyo

Pacific Media Watch
Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Vanuatu Police Arrest Protesters in Crackdown on Demo against Indon Ties

Special Report – By Johnny Blades of Radio New Zealand International

About 24 people have been arrested in Vanuatu’s capital Port Vila
after staging a protest against the arrival of an Indonesian military
aircraft.

The Hercules aircraft was reportedly carrying assistance equipment for
next month’s Port Vila meeting between African Caribbean and Pacific
(ACP) countries and the European Union.

Protesters said the arrival of Indonesian officials and military
personnel in the country was unacceptable given the longstanding
support of ni-Vanuatu for West Papuan self-determination.

Under a recently signed co-operation agreement, Indonesia will provide
police and paramilitary training to Vanuatu which in turn is to
refrain from getting involved in the West Papua issue.

West Papuan leaders living in exile in Vanuatu have called on the
government to reconsider its foreign policy in regard to Indonesia.

Indonesia last year became an observer of the Melanesian Spearhead
Group (MSG), which includes Vanuatu.

In view of the Papuans’ plight over the years, the West Papua National
Coalition for Liberation’s John Ondawame said Vanuatu should revisit
its dealings with Jakarta.

’Brutal regime’
“We firmly believe that the Vanuatu government signed a cooperation
agreement with a very brutal regime in the Asia Pacific region that
killed thousands of my people in West Papua,” he said.

Among those arrested at the airport protest yesterday was the West
Papuan Andy Ayamiseba.

Speaking on the issue from the police holding cell, he described to
Radio New Zealand International the arrangement with Indonesia as a
mockery.

“Simply talking we say what interest is there for Indonesia in
Vanuatu? There is no market for trading. It’s to silence Vanuatu on
the issue of West Papua, that’s all. That’s all that Indonesia is
interested in Vanuatu, nothing else.”

The arrival of the Indonesian military aircraft comes just days after
the Kilman government expelled Australian Federal Police (AFP) from
Vanuatu.

The Foreign Minister Alfred Carlot said Vanuatu can survive without
Australia’s assistance, saying it had new donors, such as Indonesia.

Meanwhile, Andy Ayamiseba questioned the suitability of police
training from a military force with a poor human rights record.

Last on list
“If there is any such force to train Vanuatu police, Indonesia should
be the last on the list. These people, they’re committing atrocities
on other Melanesian people. So the excuse of kicking the AFP out was
to have the Indonesian military and police to come in here?”

An opposition MP, Sela Molisa, said the people of Vanuatu were very
strongly against the co-operation deal.

“The government can get assistance from anywhere including Indonesia.
But people have different opinion from the government. In as far as
the NGOs and members of the public are concerned, they do not agree
with the government making any deals with Indonesia, that’s in
opposition to the situation in West Papua,” he said.

Molisa witnessed the arrests and has condemned police and government over them.

He said people had the right to express themselves and that no permit
was required for holding banners in a peaceful way at the airport.

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