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Indonesia Urges Australia Protest Over Benny Wenda Speech

Marzuki Urges Australia Protest Over Benny Wenda Speech

Marzuki Alie, the speaker of the House of Representatives, has urged the Foreign Ministry to take a stronger stand against domestic separatist groups operating overseas, arguing that the country’s reputation and sovereignty are at stake.

Marzuki said on Monday that the ministry should lodge a formal protest with the government of Australia after dissident Benny Wenda, the founder of the Free West Papua campaign, gave a speech at a recent nonprofit TED conference in Sydney in which he called for independence for Indonesia’s easternmost province.

“The Foreign Ministry as the spearhead of diplomacy overseas has to improve its performance,” Marzuki said.

Tjahjo Kumolo, a member of House Commission I, which oversees foreign and defense affairs, agreed that the government should raise the issue with the Australian government.

“I think the Foreign Ministry needs to lodge a protest with Australia if Australia acted to protect Wenda and the speech,” he said on Monday.

Allowing Benny into Australia was inconsistent with Canberra’s stated aim of nurturing close ties with Jakarta, Tjahjo said. He warned that bilateral relations could be undermined by the incident.

“Australia and Indonesia have stated their commitment to forge stronger ties,” said the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) legislator.

Benny’s organization operates from offices in Oxford in the UK and in Germany.

“The integrity of the Indonesia is in our own hands,” Hajriyanto Thohari, a Golkar Party legislator and deputy speaker of the People’s Consultative Assembly (MPR), said last week.

“We can’t leave it up to other nations. The government must remain vigilant. We often hear that officially, international leaders, including from the big Western governments, say they’re supportive, that Papua is a part of Indonesia,” he added.

“But look at the case of the exit of East Timor from Indonesia in the old days. Western nations said they supported our sovereignty. But along the way, due to the interference of foreign nations, the province was lost,” Hajriyanto said. “The West is always like that, you can’t trust them completely.”

The Free West Papua campaign is comprised mainly of British citizens aiming to highlight human rights abuses in Papua and to campaign for a referendum on the future of the region.

The movement has gained traction in some countries. The opening of the group’s campaign office in Britain last month was attended by the local member of the British House of Commons for Oxford East, Andrew Smith.

Wenda was granted political asylum by the British government following his escape from custody while on trial for what his supporters say were trumped-up charges. The group maintains that West Papua is the site of an ongoing genocide where more than 500,000 people have been killed.


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