West Papua

– in the House of Lords at 2:51 pm on 13 November 2007.

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Photo of Lord Harries of Pentregarth Lord Harries of Pentregarth Crossbench 2:51, 13 November 2007

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether the United Kingdom has a responsibility to raise the case of West Papua in the United Nations Security Council.

Photo of Lord Malloch-Brown Lord Malloch-Brown Minister of State (Africa, Asia and the UN), Foreign & Commonwealth Office, Minister of State (Africa, Asia and the UN)

My Lords, we do not plan to raise Papua in the United Nations Security Council. We respect Indonesia's territorial integrity and do not support Papuan independence. We believe that full implementation of existing special autonomy legislation is the best way to proceed towards a sustainable resolution to the internal differences and the long-term stability of Papua. The best way to resolve the complex issues in Papua is through promoting peaceful dialogue between Papuan groups and the Indonesian Government.

Photo of Lord Harries of Pentregarth Lord Harries of Pentregarth Crossbench

My Lords, I thank the Minister for his reply. However, does he agree that the British Government's attitude in 1968-69, as now revealed under the 30-year rule through the Foreign and Commonwealth Office telegrams, could only be described as brutal realism? Commercial links with Indonesia were allowed to stifle totally the legitimate claims of the indigenous West Papuan people to independence. We therefore have a particular responsibility to let the voice of these people, who are suffering massive human rights abuses, at least be heard in the councils of the UN.

Photo of Lord Malloch-Brown Lord Malloch-Brown Minister of State (Africa, Asia and the UN), Foreign & Commonwealth Office, Minister of State (Africa, Asia and the UN)

My Lords, the noble Lord refers to the time of the so-called Act of Free Choice when 1,000 pre-designated or selected Papuan representatives made a decision on behalf of the Papuan people. There has subsequently been much dispute whether they made that decision objectively and freely of their own will. Nevertheless, it was endorsed by the United Nations at the time and since then there has been no international doubt that Papua is part of Indonesia.

Photo of Lord Archer of Sandwell Lord Archer of Sandwell Labour

My Lords, there is no legal or procedural impediment to raising the question either at the General Assembly or in the Security Council under Article 35 of the charter. Is it the Government's position that genocide should continue while the international community looks on? If so, what has become of the ethical foreign policy?

Photo of Lord Malloch-Brown Lord Malloch-Brown Minister of State (Africa, Asia and the UN), Foreign & Commonwealth Office, Minister of State (Africa, Asia and the UN)

My Lords, the noble and learned Lord raises two separate points. First, while we are concerned by continuing human rights abuses in Papua—we have highlighted them in this year's Foreign Office and government human rights report and raised them through our embassy in Jakarta—we nevertheless believe that they are of a relatively small kind and do not in any way constitute the level of gravity that has just been implied. Secondly, because we do not accept that Papua should be independent, we would not consider it appropriate to raise the issue in the Security Council or General Assembly.

Photo of Lord Avebury Lord Avebury Spokesperson in the Lords (Civil Liberties), Home Affairs, Spokesperson in the Lords (Africa), Foreign & Commonwealth Affairs

My Lords, does the Minister agree that the so-called Act of Free Choice was nothing of the kind? If that is so, is it not at least worth asking the Indonesians to consider the similar case of Aceh, where there has been a free election for an autonomous government of the territory? Might that not be the best way forward, rather than total independence?

A

The Lord Malloch-Brown has lied, the United Nations did NOT endorse the 'Act of Free Choice' no matter how often he or Reuters claim it did. Both UN General Assembly Resolution 2504 and the Sec. General's own report only...

Submitted by Andrew Johnson Continue reading

Photo of Lord Malloch-Brown Lord Malloch-Brown Minister of State (Africa, Asia and the UN), Foreign & Commonwealth Office, Minister of State (Africa, Asia and the UN)

My Lords, the noble Lord makes a very good point. Aceh offers us hope that Indonesia is now trying to deal with these issues within a framework of autonomy and self-government within that. Indeed, the Act of 2001 offers such arrangements for Papua. We are disappointed that, due to political disputes between the Government and local Papuan groups, the implementation of that special autonomy arrangement has not gone further at this stage.

A

Aceh was a sad example of General Yudhoyono's continued military response even after Operation Scorch Earth against Dili in 2000, the TNI under orders from then Minister Yudhoyono burnt Aceh's schools and hospitals which is WHY the region was so unable to deal with the...

Submitted by Andrew Johnson Continue reading

Photo of Lord Campbell of Alloway Lord Campbell of Alloway Conservative

My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that, sitting here, it is very difficult to discern from the answers that have been given what is the attitude of Her Majesty's Government?

Photo of Lord Malloch-Brown Lord Malloch-Brown Minister of State (Africa, Asia and the UN), Foreign & Commonwealth Office, Minister of State (Africa, Asia and the UN)

My Lords, I think that the noble Lord misunderstands. I look at this as one of the clearest answers by a Minister: that the Government do not accept that Papua has a claim to independence and believe that it is part of Indonesia. The noble Lord will accept that that is an unusually clear statement by a government Minister.

A

West Papua is a COLONY according to UN Resolution 1541 principles 4 and 5; Her Majesty's Government is a member of the United Nations and is morally and legally required to raise this matter irrespective...

Submitted by Andrew Johnson Continue reading

Photo of Lord Kilclooney Lord Kilclooney Crossbench

My Lords, surely the Question does not relate specifically to the independence of the state; it refers to the conditions within the state, which are really those of Darfur on a smaller scale. During the last debate on West Papua, the noble Baroness, Lady Royall, said:

"Papua is in many ways the last blot on Indonesia's global reputation".—[Hansard, 8/1/07; col. 104.]

Does the noble Lord agree with that statement and, if so, why are we not bringing the matter to the attention of the United Nations?

A

The Lord Kilclooney is correct and Her Majesty's Government should ask these questions, just as the United States Congressmen in 2005 tried to ask questions in their Section 1115 before the Bechtel corporation had the US Senate remove the entire Section. See copy at http://wpik.org/Src/section1115.html

Submitted by Andrew Johnson

Photo of Lord Malloch-Brown Lord Malloch-Brown Minister of State (Africa, Asia and the UN), Foreign & Commonwealth Office, Minister of State (Africa, Asia and the UN)

My Lords, the noble Lord will be pleased to know that a United Nations human rights envoy, Mr Nowak, is currently in Indonesia and is looking at the case of Papua, among others. However, first, we believe that the Government who took power in Indonesia under President Yudhoyono are a much greater respecter of human rights than the Governments who preceded them. Secondly, whenever we get credible reports of human rights abuses in the province of Papua, we investigate them. Officials at our embassy in Jakarta visit Papua regularly and meet local officials, academics, journalists and NGOs, and, as I said, we raise cases of concern with the Government. I utterly dispute the characterisation of the situation in Papua as a mini-Darfur.

Photo of Lord Judd Lord Judd Labour

My Lords, does my noble friend agree that, with the historically relatively recent searing experiences of East Timor, we must be very careful lest an institutional complacency overtakes a real objective assessment of what is happening and of what is the real position of the people of this country? Does he also agree that, as permanent members of the Security Council—a privileged position enjoyed by only five nations in the world—we have a special responsibility not just to our bilateral relationships with Indonesia but to the principles of the United Nations, and the application of those principles, for everyone across the world?

Photo of Lord Malloch-Brown Lord Malloch-Brown Minister of State (Africa, Asia and the UN), Foreign & Commonwealth Office, Minister of State (Africa, Asia and the UN)

My Lords, as always, my noble friend makes a powerful plea for the proper role of conscience and, indeed, for the ethical foreign policy that falls on our shoulders as a permanent member of the Security Council. I can only assure him that, both through our annual human rights reporting and through our embassy, we believe that we are vigilant in following the situation. In the past few weeks at the Third Committee of the General Assembly, the European presidency, on behalf of the Union's member states, registered a statement on human rights abuses, which included a reference to Papua. However, again, we insist that it should not be bracketed with major abuses such as Darfur, Zimbabwe or Burma.