Indonesia furious over Oxford award for Benny Wenda

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West Papuan activists outside the Oxford Town Hall in 2015 with the 'Morning Star' flag raised. Image: Bennywenda.org

Pacific Media Centre Newsdesk 

The Indonesian government is furious over the Oxford City Council’s decision to award West Papuan activist Benny Wenda the Honorary Freedom of the City accolade, reports Kumparan.

“Indonesia strongly condemns the award by the Oxford City Council for this person,” said the Indonesian Foreign Affairs Ministry in a written statement.

The ministry said that giving the award to Wenda showed that the Oxford Council did not “fully understand the real situation” in Papua and West Papua provinces. It also said that the council did not understand Wenda’s behaviour.

READ MORE: West Papua’s Benny Wenda to be awarded Oxford’s highest honour

“Giving an award to this person shows the Oxford City Council’s lack of understanding about the behaviour of this person and the real situation in the provinces of Papua and West Papua, including the development and advances there,” the ministry said.

“Indonesia’s position on the “separatist” movement remained firm. We will not retreat one centimetre in upholding the [sovereignty of the] RI [Republic of Indonesia],” it said.


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In relation to the award, the British government said that it did not mean that the government supported Papuan independence.

“We support Indonesia’s territorial integrity and Papua as part of Indonesia,” said the British Foreign Affairs Department as quoted by BBC News.

“Politically, the position of local councils are independent of the central government, so this represents the authority of the Oxford City Council,” the department said.

The City Council awarded Oxford-based Wenda its highest honour in recognition of his tireless fight for West Papuan self-determination.

In a press release it said that “Oxford residents and the City Council have taken up the cause for their own.”

Wenda meanwhile said that he appreciated being given the award saying that it showed that Oxford City was concerned about justice and human rights for the Papuan people.

“This award shows that the people of Oxford have listened and responded,” he said.

  • Translated by James Balowski of the Indoleft News service. The original title of the article was “Indonesia Kecam Kota Oxford Berikan Penghargaan kepada Benny Wenda”.
  • Editors note: Pacific Media Watch reports that while the term “separatist” is widely used by Indonesian authorities and some international news agencies, this is generally rejected in self-determination circles as a misrepresentation of indigenous struggles against colonialism.
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