We are now witnessing the slimy tactics employed by Indonesia as Vanuatu is in recovery mode after TC Pam. The Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) meeting that is scheduled to be held in Honiara is coming up in June and Indonesia has been going around the region bribing member countries with what everyone wants to believe is “aid”. Before cyclone Pam, Vanuatu would never have stooped low enough to accept any thing from Indonesia that hinted at bribery. We would all like to believe that this would still be the case after Pam left us with an uncertain future and a reliance on foreign aid, but alas, she left us vulnerable and open to diplomatic exploitation!

Bribery for what?

Well, Indonesia is bribing members of the MSG to keep their collective mouths shut about the human rights abuses committed by the Indonesian army on the West Papuan people. Additionally, several separatist groups from West Papua have united and launched an application to be admitted into the MSG as observers. It would not be in Indonesia’s best interest if that were to happen. West Papua, as it turns out, is a province within Indonesia’s borders with a population that is predominantly Melanesian in ethnicity.

So it was with both rage and disgust that I read the following post on the Facebook group, Yumi Toktok Stret (YTS).

Further reading brought me to this news article from the Jakarta Post.

My immediate reaction was: “What the @!#$%@#@*& is going on!?”

Did we request aid from Indonesia? How did we suddenly end up at this point? Was there dirty politics involved? Is this why Moana Carcases is fishing for numbers to support his vote of no confidence? More importantly, will this sway Vanuatu’s vote in the upcoming MSG meeting regarding the West Papua issue? Will the MSG slam the door on the West Papuans again?

Discussions in the comments are mostly directed at Sato Kilman, Vanuatu’s incumbent Foreign Affairs Minister who has always had a soft spot for Indonesia and its bribes-disguised-as-aid agenda. He is now taking heat for being a sellout. No one from the government has yet clarified this news on YTS.

My head is reeling with fury! After so much work put into fighting for and with West Papuans to get them into the MSG, we suddenly seem at odds with our own priorities! But we cannot let Sato Kilman take the fall by himself. He acted on grounds forged through diplomatic relations with Indonesia. And that is where I find this so darned irritating! Will we still have the guts to defy Indonesia when it comes to the issue of West Papua?

Kilman proclaiming Indonesia to be “a true friend of Vanuatu,” is a gross understatement that begs for a frustrated face-palm, flared nostrils and a war-cry for our own two-timing. Seriously, I thought we had honor and more so, I thought we had compassion.

Well, to heck with all those doubts. We are honorable and we are compassionate. That is why a lot of people are finding this piece of news disturbing. We have heard the cries of help from West Papuans, and we’ve held our resolve time and again in our stand against Indonesia for their blatant human rights abuses against our brethren in West Papua.

A statement from the Indonesian Foreign Ministry declares that “the aid will also be a symbol of Indonesian commitment to strengthening bilateral relations with Vanuatu in terms of disaster mitigation.” And the aid sums up to $2 million (AUD or USD, I don’t really care!)

I throw my hands up in disgust! I say again, do we have the guts anymore? We are not in a position to “keep our friends close and our enemies closer”! All we have is our honor and our compassion. Kastom says that we put our differences aside and come together to help each other out in times of need, but at what cost? Is $2 million dollars worth of aid more valuable than the lives of the hundreds of thousands of human beings that have died at the hands of Indonesia?

They say “beggars can’t be choosers”, but I don’t recall Vanuatu begging Indonesia to help with TC Pam relief. No one outside of Vanuatu can accuse us of “biting the hand that feeds us” because we did not ask Indonesia to feed us in the first place!

Our protest is one of principle, but then again there is no honor whatsoever in politics, certainly not when our nation is frail and vulnerable to opportunistic vultures.

Fr Walter Lini, God rest his soul, would be turning over in his grave at this sudden turn of events.

I sign off with utter shame!