Yashinta Difa/Azis Kurmala, Jakarta – Indonesia has strongly condemned the Oxford City Council's decision to award Benny Wenda, a member of the West Papua movement separatist group, the Freedom of the City.
"The Oxford City Council's has lack of understanding of Benny Wenda's action and the actual conditions of the Provinces of Papua and West Papua, including their development and progress," said a statement from Indonesian Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Jakarta Thursday.
Indonesia's position on separatist groups would remain firm. Indonesia will not retreat even an inch to enforce the Unitary State of the Republic of Indonesia (NKRI), the statement clarified.
The Oxford Freedom of the City Award announced for Wenda on July 17, 2019, was being presented to the wrong person because he believed in the use of violence to achieve his political goals, the Indonesian Embassy in London earlier said in its written statement.
The Indonesian Embassy in London questioned the basis for giving the award to those called "peaceful campaigners for democracy" in the midst of the abundant evidence linking those concerned with various armed violence in Papua.
The award would actually provide legitimacy to the person and his group to increase their acts of violence against civilians and government officials who maintain the sustainability of economic, social and cultural development in Papua, the embassy stated.
Therefore, awarding people with criminal records through armed separatist movements shows the lack of understanding of the Council and the progress of the actual development of the Provinces of Papua and West Papua.
Through this action, the Oxford City Council has again hurt the feelings of the Indonesian people.
The award was a continuation of the Council's support for the Free Papua movement after giving permission for the opening of the Free West Papua Campaign office in Oxford in 2013.
Presenting awards to such people also reduces the credibility of the city of Oxford as one of the leading education centers in the world.
The award can hamper efforts to increase cooperation between Indonesia and the United Kingdom (UK), and with the City of Oxford, especially when the two countries are celebrating 70 years of diplomatic relations, the embassy argued.
However, the Indonesian government noted the assertive statement of the British government that fully supported the sovereignty of the Republic of Indonesia, and that the award from the Oxford City Council did not represent the position of the British government.
"The Indonesian government respects the stance of the United Kingdom which continues to respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Republic of Indonesia, and acknowledges that Papua is an inseparable part of Indonesia," the embassy stated.