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Papua is ‘a part of Indonesia’

British Ambassador to Indonesia Mark Canning said on Saturday that the UK government did not support the activities of the separatist Free Papua Movement (OPM), which claimed to have opened an office in Oxford, England.

The envoy issued the statement following a plan by the Indonesian government to summon him to clarify whether his government was supporting Papua’s secession from Indonesia by allowing UK-based Papuan exile Benny Wenda to set up an office for the Free West Papua campaign, the opening ceremony of which was reportedly attended by Oxford’s mayor and a member of the UK parliament.

“The views of the UK government are well known. We regard Papua as part of this country and want it to enjoy the same peace and prosperity as other parts of this nation,” Canning said in a press release on Saturday.

Canning said his office had also explained the matter to his counterpart, Indonesian Ambassador Hamzah Thayeb, in London on Friday, saying that the views of the Oxford Council, as well as Benny, should not be taken as reflecting those of the British government.

“The council, like all councils in Britain, is free to support whatever causes it wishes. It is not part of [the UK] government and is not directed in any way by the government,” Canning said.

Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa would summon Canning soon to clarify the matter although, according to presidential spokesman Julian Aldrin Pasha, Marty had reported to President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono that it was a “one-sided claim made by activists or those supporting the independence movement in Papua”.

Marty reported the incident to Yudhoyono on Friday night, Julian said on Saturday in a press release. “I look forward to explaining our position on a subject that we recognize is a sensitive one for the Indonesian government,” Canning said.

While reiterating its support for Indonesia’s integrity, Canning said the UK government was concerned with human rights issues that should be addressed in Papua, a concern that has been raised by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay.

Pillay, who visited Indonesia last year, said on Friday that she was informed the police had conducted crackdowns on mass demonstrations across Papua since April 30, as Papuans were preparing to mark the 50th anniversary of Papua’s integration into Indonesia. Two Papuans were reportedly shot dead during the crackdown and the police are still investigating the incident.

“I am of course aware that efforts are under way to try to improve this, as well as to address issues relating to economic and social development, and we fully support them. We keep in touch with all those who are trying to move Papua forward, including the new governor, who I met last week,” Canning said, referring to Lukas Enembe.

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