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Indonesia; Vanuatu: Vanuatu Parliament Passes Resolution on West Papua Independence

(July 21, 2010) On June 21, 2010, it was reported that the Vanuatu Parliament had unanimously passed a motion to raise questions with the United Nations regarding the status of West Papua, which is currently a province of Indonesia. (Vanuatu Wants UN to Discuss West Papua, RADIO AUSTRALIA (June 21, 2010),

The Vanuatu government stated that it intends to seek support from the U.N. General Assembly for the International Court of Justice to provide an advisory opinion on the legality of the 1962 New York Agreement between Indonesia and the Netherlands that resulted in the temporary transfer of control of West Papua to the U.N. Vanuatu will also ask for the area to be re-listed with the U.N. Decolonization Committee as a non-self governing territory in order for it to formally enter the decolonization process. (Press Release, Government of Vanuatu, Vanuatu Parliament Support West Papua Bill, (last visited July 15, 2010); Selwyn Manning, Vanuatu to Seek Observer Status for West Papua at MSG and PIF Leaders Summits, PACIFIC SCOOP (June 22, 2010),

The parliamentary motion essentially calls for Vanuatu to sponsor West Papua's bid for independence from Indonesia by, among other measures, officially declaring that Vanuatu's foreign policy is to support the achievement of West Papua's independence and sponsoring resolutions for the independence movement of West Papua to have observer status at meetings of official regional groupings. (Id.)

West Papua is situated on the western half of the island of New Guinea, with the independent state of Papua New Guinea forming the eastern half. Indonesia administered the area following the 1962 agreement, and a controversial referendum held in 1969 (known as the “Act of Free Choice”) resulted in a group of West Papuan representatives voting in favor of integration with Indonesia rather than independence. (Vanuatu Seeks UN Help over Papua Determination, RADIO NEW ZEALAND INTERNATIONAL (June 21, 2010), In 2001, Indonesia passed a law granting “special autonomy” status to the region. (Law of the Republic of Indonesia No. 21 Year 2001 on Special Autonomy for the Papua Province, PAPUAWEB, (unofficial translation) (last visited July 15, 2010).) Since the events of the 1960s there has been ongoing conflict between the West Papua independence movement and the Indonesian government. (See, e.g., Papuans Take to Jungle as Military Continues Highlands Sweep Operation, RADIO NEW ZEALAND INTERNATIONAL (June 15, 2010),; Ridwan Max Sijabat & Markus Makur, Papua: Indonesia's Great Enigma, THE JAKARTA POST (Feb. 7, 2010),

Most recently, on July 14, 2010, it was reported that the upper house of the West Papua provincial parliament had decided to hold a special session on August 3, 2010, on the special autonomy status, after the lower house decided in June to formally reject the 2001 law. (Papua Parliament to Hold Special Session on Special Autonomy, RADIO NEW ZEALAND INTERNATIONAL (July 14, 2010), This followed a July 8, 2010, rally that was reported to have been attended by thousands of West Papuans calling for the rejection of special autonomy status and for a referendum to be held on independence. (Large Numbers March on Papua Parliament's Upper House, RADIO NEW ZEALAND INTERNATIONAL (July 9, 2010),; Nethy Dharma Somba & Markus Makur, Thousands of Papuans Rally Again for Referendum, THE JAKARTA POST (July 9, 2010),