UK’s Corbyn calls for democratic reform in Papua at ‘historic’ summit

Supporters of West Papuan self-determination being detained at the Indonesian Mobile Police Brigade's headquarters in Kotaraja at dusk on Monday. Note the many people wearing the colours of the Morning Star flag of an independent Papua - an act of defiance that risks 15 years in jail. Image: Benny Mawel/Jubi

United Kingdom Opposition Leader Jeremy Corbyn has spoken out about the plight of the West Papuan people and supported a push for democratic reform in the Indonesian province, reports the ABC.

Speaking at a meeting of the International Parliamentarians for West Papua at the House of Commons, Corbyn said it was time the West Papuan people were able to make their own choice about their political future, the ABC’s Europe correspondent Steve Cannane reported.

“It’s about a political strategy that brings to worldwide recognition the plight of the people of West Papua, that forces it onto a political agenda, that forces it to the UN, and ultimately allows the people of West Papua to make a choice about the kind of government they want and the kind of society in which they want to live,” he told the meeting.

The Labour leader described the meeting as historic which came amid mass arrests of hundreds of Papuans in the Indonesian-ruled provinces, the ABC story said.

Speakers included MPs, ministers and political leaders from the UK, Tonga, Vanuatu, Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands.

Corbyn endorsed a report published by the University of Warwick that called for the reinstatement of NGOs in Papua, the release of political prisoners, and a parliamentary fact-finding delegation being sent to the region.

West Papua has been under Indonesian rule since 1969, when the so-called Act of Free Choice took place, a vote that Indonesia claims rightfully handed over sovereignty of what was then known as West Irian.

West Papuan independence advocates claim the vote was a sham and the UN should now facilitate a free and fair vote for independence.

This week Indonesian police detained hundreds of pro-independence demonstrators in the provincial capital of Jayapura and many other towns and locations across the West Papuan region. Some Papuans were also detained in other cities in the rest of Indonesia.

Lord Harries of Pentregarth, a former Bishop of Oxford who was at the House of Commons meeting, has described the ongoing situation in West Papua as “one of the great neglected scandals of our time”.

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