House of Lords question on West Papua
House of Lords, Oral Question, 19 July 2011
Indonesia: West Papua
Asked By Lord Harries of Pentregarth
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking to encourage
the government of Indonesia to enter into dialogue with representative
leaders of the West Papuan opposition.
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Howell of
Guildford): My Lords, the United Kingdom has long encouraged the use of
constructive dialogue to resolve differences between the Government of
Indonesia and the credible representatives of the Papuan and West Papuan
people. We welcome the Papuan peace conference held in Jayapura from 5
to 7 July, which included discussions between Indonesian government
Ministers and Papuan community leaders addressing political differences
over regional governance and possible avenues for further dialogue.
Lord Harries of Pentregarth: I thank the Minister for his reply. I am
particularly glad that he has drawn the attention of the House to the
recent peace conference, when more than 500 representatives of different
aspects of West Papuan society gathered in order to call for serious
negotiations with the Indonesian Government and to appoint five people
to negotiate on behalf of the West Papuan people. Will the Minister ask
the Indonesian Government to respond to this initiative?
Lord Howell of Guildford: I am grateful to the noble and right reverend
Lord for his question. We are discussing these matters with the
Indonesian Government. We know they are committed to trying to carry
this process forward. It is a matter of them putting their money where
their mouth is because Papua and West Papua receive by far the largest
chunk of the regional funds from the central government. They want to
carry this forward. I think the message of the noble
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and right reverend Lord is the correct one and we shall continue to
encourage a constructive dialogue, as I have described.
Lord Avebury: Considering that, after many years of struggle and
destruction of the economic potential, the Government of Indonesia came
to an agreement with the people of Aceh on devolution, will the Foreign
Office ask Jakarta to refrain from arresting and imprisoning dozens of
people in West Papua for so-called subversion and at least have
discussions with the OPM to see how the benefits of mineral
exploitation, including BP’s LNG project in Bintuni Bay, could be more
widely shared with the people?
Lord Howell of Guildford: On my noble friend’s final point, my
understanding is that not only BP but Rio Tinto and other major
investors are determined to work out ways in which the benefits can
indeed be shared more widely with the people. My noble friend is
absolutely right about that. We have raised queries about some of the
arrests-there was one over displaying the wrong flag or something like
that-and the size of the sentences seemed disproportionate. We are aware
of these worries and we shall continue to raise them with the Government.
Lord Hannay of Chiswick: My Lords, does the Minister not agree that
Indonesian policy in West Papua and Papua-I declare an interest as a
regular business visitor there for eight years between 2001 and 2009-is
a rather disturbing mixture of generosity-as the noble Lord has
explained, those provinces are the biggest aid recipients of transfers
of resources within Indonesia-and repression? It must surely be in the
interest of the Indonesian Government to strengthen that generous strand
and to reduce the repression and, above all, to allow the international
press free access to Papua and West Papua so that they can see what is
really going on.
Lord Howell of Guildford: The noble Lord is absolutely right: it is not
only in the interests of Indonesia-wherever there is repression, it is
not the right way forward-but in our national interest as well. It may
seem far away, but the reality is that we are talking about an area
mid-way between the Pacific rim and the Indian Ocean, where all the
world’s growth, dynamism and accumulation of wealth and influence will
be. It is very important that we are constructively and helpfully
The matter of journalists’ access to Papua and West Papua was discussed
at the EU human rights partnership meeting with the Indonesians in
Indonesia on 5 May. It is one that we continue to raise, because clearly
access for balanced reporting would be of benefit to the situation.
Lord Anderson of Swansea: My Lords, in terms of human rights, it is
normally best for representations to be made on behalf of the European
Union as a whole so that individual countries are not picked off. What
is the position here? Have there been representations by the European
Union? Are we fully behind them?
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Lord Howell of Guildford: Yes. I described in my answer to the previous
question that on 5 May there was an EU meeting that discussed a number
of aspects of repression, including a matter that the noble Lord, Lord
Avebury, quite often and rightly raises-the question of the apparent
persecution of, and violence against, the Ahmadiyya community and other
Christian communities. All these matters are indeed discussed and were
discussed at that very helpful forum between the European Union and the
Indonesian Government on 5 May.
Lord Liddle: The whole House will welcome the progress-uneven
progress-being made on human rights in West Papua, and on human rights
in the rest of Indonesia, and will welcome Indonesia’s joining of the UN
Human Rights Council, but what positive progress is being made under the
EU-Indonesia dialogue? What active support are the British Government
giving, particularly in terms of ministerial visits such as that of Mr
Jeremy Browne last year to Indonesia? How do the Government balance
their proper concern for human rights with their present emphasis on
expanding UK trade in emerging markets such as Indonesia?
Lord Howell of Guildford: The answer to the noble Lord’s general
question is that we do balance. In many cases, one would argue that the
two go together. If we can get expanded commercial and economic
activity, effective inward investment and the expansion of trade, this
will pave the way for a more open society and a more effective policing
of human rights.
Results are a bit difficult to measure. All that can be said is that
there is a human rights dialogue between the European Union and
Indonesia. We support it fully. Our evidence in this increasingly
transparent world is: first, that it is getting more difficult for any
country that wishes to oppose and repress human rights to do so;
secondly, that we intend to try to make it more difficult for them to do
so; and thirdly, that the Indonesian state, whose territorial integrity
we fully support, is anxious to carry forward and sensibly settle this
and other human rights issues in a good and constructive way.