West Papua: Government challenged on arms sales amid Indonesian military offensive

By Tim McNulty

ARMS campaigners have questioned continued UK military support for Indonesia amid human rights allegations in West Papua.

A simmering pro-independence insurgency as been underway in the far-eastern Indonesian territory since the late 1960s.

45,000 people are reported to have fled the breakaway province after Indonesian military operations intensified in the Central Highlands region of Nduga last year.

Andrew Smith of Campaign Against Arms Trade told Redaction Politics: “The reports from West Papua are extremely concerning, and the violence must be condemned. Indonesian forces have acted with impunity and a disregard for the human rights of those that have been displaced.

“For decades, successive UK governments have shown an uncritical political and military support for Indonesian forces regardless of the abuses that they have inflicted, whether it has been in West Papua or East Timor. There must be an end to these arms sales, and an urgent review into if UK-made weapons have been used to exacerbate the situation.”

Indonesia is listed as ‘core market’ for UK arms sales, with £555 million worth of arms licensed since 2015.

This includes British made Hawk fighter jets which were later found to have been used in East Timor.

Human rights groups have long claimed that British-made defence equipment has been used for repression in East Timor since Indonesia invaded in 1975.

Labour’s Alex Sobel recently questioned the UK’s military support for Jakarta in Parliament.

In a parliamentary question tabled on October 30, the Shadow Culture Minister asked the government to halt the sale of arms and the provision of training to Indonesian forces.

In response, Minister for International Trade Ranil Jayawardena defended the UK cooperation with Indonesia and the government’s position on West Papua.

He said: “The United Kingdom supports counter-terrorism training for the Indonesian National Police, through the Jakarta Centre for Law Enforcement Cooperation (JCLEC). This includes a broad range of counter terrorism investigation and analytical skills; essential equipment to enhance Indonesia’s forensic, surveillance and IT capabilities; and training on the post-terrorist incident response, including first aid training.

“All training requires rights and responsibilities to be upheld. We do not provide training to Papua based units but continue to monitor the situation in Papua closely. HM Government respects the territorial integrity of Indonesia, which includes Papua and West Papua provinces.”

Featured image: Creative Commons

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