PASIFIC - Vanuatu's Prime Minister Joe Natuman has reconfirmed his government's support for West Papuan independence aspirations to Indonesia's government.
While acknowledging the cordial relationship between Vanuatu and Indonesia, Prime Mr Natuman reminded the visiting Indonesian Ambassador to Vanuatu Nadjib Riphat Kesoema of Vanuatu's firm position in support of the West Papuan struggle.
As reported by Radio New Zealand, the Prime Minister says while there are clear disagreements between the two countries, Vanuatu and Indonesia should be able to discuss sensitive issues in an amicable way and find the best way forward.
Mr Natuman took the opportunity to inform the Indonesian ambassador of forum planned for Port Vila later this month at which various West Papuan groups will converge to discuss a potential bid to join the Melanesian Spearhead Group.
Ambassador Kesoema says the needs of the indigenous people of West Papua are being taken into account as the country continues its democratisation.
Profil of Joe Natuman
Joe Natuman, born 24 November 1952, is a ni-Vanuatu politician, member of the Vanua'aku Pati. He is a graduate of the University of the South Pacific, and was also an exchange student at the University of Papua New Guinea.
In the 1980s, he worked in the highest ranks of the civil service, culminating with the position of First Secretary to the Prime Minister's Office from 1987 to 1991, at the time of Prime Minister Walter Lini. He then worked as assistant registrar at the University of the South Pacific in Suva, Fiji, until 1995.
He entered national politics when he was elected MP for Tanna, representing the Vanua'aku Pati, in the 1995 general election. He has been continuously re-elected since.
From 1996 to 2008, he served in the following positions in successive governments:
- Minister for Judicial Services, Culture and Women's Affairs in 1996
- Minister for Lands, Energy, Geology and Mines in 1997
- Minister for Education in 1998
- Minister for Internal Affairs from April to March 2002
- Minister for Education in 2004
- Minister for Internal Affairs from 2007 to 2008.
While Minister of Education, he was chairman of the Vanuatu National Commission for UNESCO.
Prime Minister Edward Natapei appointed him Minister for Lands in 2008, then reshuffled him to the position of Minister for Foreign Affairs, External Trade and Telecommunications in 2010. Natapei's government was ousted in a motion of no confidence in December 2010, and Natuman sat on the Opposition benches until Serge Vohor ascended to the premiership in a successful motion of no confidence against Prime Minister Sato Kilman on Easter Sunday (24 April), 2011, and restored Natuman as Minister for Foreign Affairs.Three weeks later, however, Vohor's election and premiership were voided by the Court of Appeal, and Natuman lost his position in government (13 May).
On 16 June, Kilman's election and premiership were themselves voided by the Supreme Court, on constitutional grounds, and previous Prime Minister Edward Natapei became caretaker Prime Minister until a new leader could be elected. Natuman was restored as interim Minister of Foreign Affairs. Transparency International subsequently praised Natuman for having, as Minister for Foreign Affairs, "proceeded with a full clean-up" in the selling of diplomatic passports which had occurred frequently under previous governments. On 26 June 2011, Sato Kilman was elected Prime Minister by Parliament, and Natuman lost his position in government.
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