22 Sep 2015

Kilman silence on West Papua noted in Vanuatu

10:19 am on 22 September 2015

The Vanuatu opposition MP Joe Natuman says the government should speak up more about West Papua.

Sato Kilman - pictured during a visit to Russia in March 2015

Vanuatu's PM, Sato Kilman, has been criticised for his silence on West Papua at the Pacific Islands Forum. Photo: Vladimir Pesnya / RIA Novosti

Joe Natuman was replaced as prime minister by Sato Kilman in June this year following a motion of no-confidence against him.

Before that, Mr Natuman was instrumental in facilitating a major reunification summit for West Papuan representative groups who have since been admitted into the Melanesian Spearhead Group as the United Liberation Movement for West Papua.

However, Mr Kilman has taken a different approach on Papua and was inconspicuous on the issue when it featured at the recent Pacific Forum summit in Port Moresby.

Joe Natuman admits this approach is not reflective of Vanuatu public opinion.

"We should be more forthcoming on the issue of West Papua. At least the MSG now has decided to include West Papua as observer status. but I think our government should have voiced some concern especially in regard to human rights abuses happening in that country."

While Vanuatu under Sato Kilman has stepped back from the issue, support within the MSG for West Papuan self-determination is largely being driven by the group's current chair, the prime minister of Solomon Islands, Manasseh Sogavare.