26 Juli 2013

British government concerned about situation in West Papua

Lord Harries opened the session
Lord Harries opened the session

The British government was questioned in the House of Lords last night about the ongoing crisis in West Papua. Baroness Warsi, speaking for the British government recognised that “the events surrounding the 1969 Act of free Choice continue to be a controversy”, whilst Lord Avebury suggested that Indonesian President SBY “should be invited to the UK in September 2014 ( for the referendum on self- determination in Scotland) so that he can see how we deal with demands for self-determination in this country”. Baroness Warsi said in her closing statement that “We all agree that the situation in Papua is of concern”.

The full transcript of the session can be accessed through a link at the end of this report.


Lord Harries of Pentregarth, former Bishop of Oxford opened the session by stating, “My Lords, violations of basic human rights in West Papua are not only continuing but becoming more frequent. In 2012-13 there were numerous incidents of West Papuans being shot, arrested and tortured simply for taking part in peaceful demonstrations. 

Leaders of the West Papua National Committee—the KNPB—are particularly targeted. To give just one example, at a peaceful demonstration on 1 May this year, three Papuans were shot—killings which were rightly condemned by both the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, and Amnesty International. A list of 30 such incidents involving arrests for peaceful protests in just two weeks in April and May this year was sent to the OHCHR in Geneva by TAPOL on behalf of eight international organisations concerned with West Papua.”

He continued, “The truth cannot be hidden forever. The 1962 New York agreement signed between the Netherlands, Indonesia and the United Nations guaranteed an “act of self-determination” for the people of West Papua. In 1969 that so-called Act of Free Choice took place.” Lord Harries then quoted Baroness, Lady Symons of Vernham Dean, who on behalf of the British government admitted on December 13th 2004 that, “there were 1,000 handpicked representatives and that they were largely coerced into declaring for inclusion in Indonesia”.

Lord Harries further continued, “Given that the former UN Under-Secretary-General, Chakravarthi Narasimhan, admitted publicly in 2004 that the 1969 so-called Act of Free Choice was in effect a sham, will the Government join with International Parliamentarians for West Papua and International Lawyers for West Papua in asking the UN to conduct an inquiry into what happened in 1969 and then to instigate a referendum on the issue in West Papua itself?

Lord Harries added, “Given the 2010/11 referendum on self-determination in South Sudan and the upcoming referendums on independence in New Caledonia—Kanaky, Bougainville and Scotland, and bearing in mind what happened in East Timor, would it not be prudent, as well as absolutely right, to press for a true, internationally monitored referendum? This issue is certainly not going to go away, however much the Indonesian Government might wish that it would.”

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