In a major victory for the United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP), the British Government has stated its support for a visit to West Papua by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.
The Commissioner’s visit, a key demand of international states, would lead to an evidence-based report on the human rights situation in West Papua.
Responding to a question from Alex Sobel MP, Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on West Papua, Minister for Asia Nigel Adams stated that, ‘The UK supports a visit by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (ONHCR) to Papua.’ The British Embassy in Jakarta has discussed the matter with the Indonesian Foreign Ministry and encouraged Indonesia to agree a time frame for the visit.
A UN investigation into West Papua is a key aim of the ULMWP. With this announcement, Britain has become the 82nd state to formally support the proposal, following calls from the member states of the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) and the Organisation of African, Caribbean, and Pacific States (OACPS).
The UK has bolstered Indonesia’s colonisation of West Papua since the occupation began in 1963 – support, Adams reaffirmed while staking out the Government’s new position. For decades, British-Australian mining company Rio Tinto had multi-billion pound investments in Grasberg, the world’s largest gold mine and second largest copper mine. The company was accused of complicity in human rights abuses at the mine before selling its shares in 2018. British company BP holds one of the world’s largest liquefied natural gas reserves in Tangguh, West Papua.
Britain’s support for the High Commissioner’s visit increases pressure on Indonesia, who – despite promising that a visit is ’still on the table’ – have so far refused to allow UN investigators into West Papua.
The UK statement comes in the wake of the killing and shooting of a number of religious figures in recent months. Among them was Pastor Yeremina Zanambani, who was killed in the Intan Jaya regency on 19 September. Investigations by both Indonesia’s human rights commission and an independent humanitarian group based in the area have suggested that Pastor Zanambani was killed by the Indonesian army.