British 'free Papua' office sparks row
A diplomatic row between Indonesia and Britain is rumbling on after Indonesia’s foreign minister condemned the UK government for failing to take action against the Free West Papua campaign, which has set up an office in England.
- Published: 8/05/2013 at 11:57 AM
- Newspaper section: breakingnews
Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa talks to journalists in this file photo. He has asked the British government to take action against the Free West Papua campaign, which has set up an office in Oxford. He says the campaign supports separatist groups. (EPA photo)
The campaign group officially established a new office in Oxford on April 28. Indonesia issued a statement on Sunday objecting to the opening of the office and asking the UK government not to support action related to the separatist movement in West Papua.
Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa has now reiterated his frustration at the lack of any action from the UK, questioning why the British government is unwilling to take steps against the Free West Papua office.
According to the Jakarta Globe, he said: “We see this as completely at odds with the enthusiastic friendship between our two nations, and hope they can understand why we feel so upset. One more time, we’re asking the British government to try to understand why this cannot be tolerated.”
Indonesian House of Representatives deputy speaker Priyo Budi Santoso said he was deeply disappointed with the British parliament.
“I think the UK has meddled with Indonesia’s affairs too much. I would like to remind the UK government that they also have issues with Northern Ireland,” he told the Jakarta Post. “I don’t think they would be happy if Indonesia hosted an office for the IRA [Irish Republican Army] or encouraged Northern Ireland separatist sentiments.”
But the People’s Consultative Assembly deputy speaker Hajriyanto Thohari said Indonesians should not be surprised at Britain’s apathy toward the situation.
“The integrity of the Unitary State of Indonesia is in our own hands,” he said. “We can’t leave it up to other nations. We often hear that officially, international leaders, including from the big Western governments, say they’re supportive, that Papua is a part of Indonesia.
“But look at the case of the exit of East Timor from Indonesia in the old days. How much the Western nations said they supported our sovereignty. But along the way, due to the interference of foreign nations, the province was lost. The West is always like that, you can’t trust them completely.”
The British ambassador to Indonesia Mark Canning told the BBC he had met with the Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa.
He said he assured him the new office had “nothing whatsoever to do with the British, adding that Britain recognises “the sensitivity of this issue” and does not support calls for Papuan independence.
He said Britain also supported Indonesian efforts to “address the problems of Papua and hopes to see it enjoy the same level of peace, stability and prosperity as the other parts of this nation”.
The Free West Papua Campaign accused the Indonesian government of trying to suppress freedom of speech in Britain and at home.
A spokesman for the campaign said: “The Indonesia government must realise that they can no longer silence the Papuan people. The UN, governments, parliamentarians, lawyers, activists and huge numbers of ordinary people are watching and learning. The Indonesian government cannot continue killing Papuan people for simply wanting to be free.”
The opening of the campaign office was attended by the British member of parliament for Oxford East, Andrew Smith, and British-based Papuan exile Benny Wenda.
The Indonesian government issued a red notice requesting Benny’s arrest and extradition to Indonesia In 2011, but the notice was rejected in 2012 after Interpol said allegations against Benny were “politically motivated and an abuse of the system”.
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- Position: Online Reporters