We were present for the first part of the meeting, which brought together
academics and legal experts in order to discuss West Papua’s right to self-
determination, the ongoing genocide against the Indigenous population and the
logistics of an internationally supervised vote for the people of West Papua to
determine their own political future. Meanwhile, #letwestpapuavote was trending on twitter.
At the meeting there were also key players in the movement such as Chief Benny Wenda, international spokesperson of the United Liberation Movement for West Papua, and several government representatives from other South Pacific nations, who were part of the historic international declaration for West Papuans to finally be given the right to vote for independence.
Professor Keith Hyams from University of Warwick presented findings from the University’s Assesment Report on West Papua. The report covers issues such as human rights violations, cases of torture by the Indonesian military and an assessment of future scenarios towards West Papua’s independence. Other speakers provided testimonies, and talked of the legal basis for West Papua’s right to self-determination, and the path towards a referendum.
A key aspect of the discussion was the economic element of Indonesia’s
resistance to a referendum. Speakers agreed that economic interests and
Indonesia’s stake in West Papua’s natural resources were at the heart of the
issue, and that the campaign needs to move forward in the economic area as well as the legal one.
The role of BP came up repeatedly, alongside other corporations with economic interests in the region. Lord Harries, former Bishop of Oxford and Chair of the International Parlamentarians for West Papua, drew parallels with the fight for independence in South Africa, and said that targeting corporations with economic interests in the area (for instance by brining up issues of ethics and corporate responsibility at shareholders meetings) would be an important step forward in the fight for West Papua’s freedom.
The role of corporations in supporting Indonesia’s occupation and oppression ofWest Papua has been denounced by leading campaigners for years. Last month, Chief Benny Wenda gifted a Morning Star flag representing the fight for freedom of the peoples of West Papua to our exhibition ‘A History of BP in 10 Objects’, in order to highlight BP’s connection to the Indonesian government.
He also recorded a video in which he describes how BP’s operations and its financial contribution to the Indonesian government help fuel the purchase of weapons, and as a result, the repression of people in West Papua fighting for their right to self-determination. He added: “I give this flag on behalf of my people of West Papua who continue to suffer and die under illegal occupation and genocide fuelled by BP.”
At the meeting a new declaration was made calling for an internationally supervised vote on the independence of West Papua. Statements of support were made by government officials and politicians from various countries, including Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. You can learn more about their campaign and how to support them here.
By Dr Paula Serafini