When the Indonesian president Joko Widodo visits the White House later this month, human rights violations in West Papua should be firmly on the agenda
Tuesday’s demand is the culmination of decades of campaigning and a recent surge in grassroots support for the Free West Papua movement and an increase in membership of the International Parliamentarians for West Papua (IPWP), which includes Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn among its cofounders.
“This conference is welcome recognition of the growing international support, notably in the Pacific, for the people of West Papua to be accorded their right, so long and wrongly denied, of self-determination,” Oxford East MP Andrew Smith, Chair and cofounder of the IPWP, said.
“Its denial is a stain on the record of the United Nations, which we must continue to campaign for the international community to put right.”
Lord Harries of Pentregarth, the former Bishop of Oxford, and also a cofounder of the group, described West Papua as “one of the great neglected scandals of our time”.
“At last however parliaments around the world are waking up to this and the visit of political leaders from the Pacific is a very welcome step towards getting proper UN recognition of the indigenous people of West Papua and their desire for self-determination.”
Despite verbally softening on West Papua’s autonomy and freedom, the Indonesian president Joko Widodo has largely failed to follow through. Under his rule, alleged abuses and violent attacks by military and police, including mass arrests and crackdowns on peaceful protests, have continued. In the last month alone more than 60 people have been arrested, Wenda said.
“This is everyday life in West Papua. Physically, mentally, Indonesia intimidates every day,” said Wenda.
Wenda, who famously escaped an Indonesian prison and fled to Papua New Guinea before seeking asylum in the UK, was coy about any role in a future West Papuan parliament.
“My people will decide on whoever they want to lead us independence, but my obligation now is to free West Papua,” he said. By Rochelle Jones