Greens Leader Richard Di Natale Calls For BP Rethink On West Papuan Gas Field


Greens leader Richard Di Natale has added his voice to growing calls across the international community for one of the world’s biggest oil companies to rethink its involvement in a gas-mining operation in occupied West Papua, as Indonesia continues to face accusations of grave human rights abuses.

Earlier this year, UK Journalist of the Year, Michael Gillard snuck into West Papua posing as a doctor to investigate British Petroleum’s operations in Bintuni Bay, where it’s trying to exploit a $10 billion gas field called Tangguh.

Journalists are banned from the Indonesian-occupied territory. Even the United Nations can’t gain access.

Gillard’s exclusive report on the situation in West Papua was released yesterday. Gillard found:

  • BP security guards are spying on the local community and passing intelligence on ‘disruptive individuals’ to the military;
  • Well-armed Indonesian security forces are now secretly stationed inside the oil company’s base;
  • Retired senior Indonesian police and military officers are running an ‘elite cadre’ of BP guards armed with stun guns and rubber bullets who are given ‘behaviour profiling’ training in how to spot agitators. The self-styled ethical oil company is using counter-terrorism to justify these measures; and
  • Violence in the region has increased markedly, with activists rounded up by Indonesian military.

Critics fear that the counter-terrorism is a cover for increasing state surveillance on the growing student and social movements seeking political freedoms and ultimately self-determination for West Papua.

The head of the Papuan organisation that provided human rights training to BP security told New Matilda that a network of undercover military intelligence agents is also targeting peaceful social movements in Bintuni Bay, who are being swept up in mass arrests.

Richard Di Natale, who leads the Greens party in Australia has a long history of advocating on the rights of West Papuans, who have faced a brutal occupation by Indonesia since the 1960s.

Greens leader Richard Di Natale, pictured with former WA Greens Senator Scott Ludlam pictured with West Papua activists in 2016.

“West Papuans are some of our closest neighbours, yet there is a veil of silence in Australia about the appalling human rights abuses that occur there, and the fact that they have been denied their right to self-determination,” Mr Di Natale said.

“BP should bear in mind that it is collaborating with security forces who are implicated in serious atrocities. These forces are willing to beat and even kill people simply for peacefully flying the Morning Star flag.

“Let’s hope that as more people find out what’s happening in Bintuni Bay, BP will face pressure from the international community and its own shareholders to drastically shift course and consider the rights of the indigenous locals.”

The militarisation of BP’s Tangguh operation comes as a recent Amnesty International report on West Papua documented 95 extrajudicial killings by soldiers and police in the last eight years, and thousands of unlawful political arrests.

Control of West Papua was established by a brutal invasion where an estimated 30,000 Papuans were killed between 1965 and 1969 by US-backed Indonesian security forces.

The soldiers were fresh from murdering over 500,000 suspected communist sympathisers in their own country, as described in British documentary maker Joshua Oppenheimer’s much lauded film, The Act of Killing.

Indonesian military intelligence then rigged a controversial vote among selected Papuans in 1969, which to its discredit the United Nations went along with.

Di Natale is the latest leader to call for the international community and the United Nations must to face up to its responsibility to confront multinational companies and Jakarta over their conduct in West Papua.

British peer, Lord Harries of Pentregarth, the former bishop of Oxford, told New Matilda it was “high time the world woke up to the slow motion genocide” taking place and questioned the involvement of one of Britain’s biggest companies.

“BP are siphoning off West Papuan resources to Indonesia blind to the brutal repression going on around them,” he said. “Ever since Indonesia invaded West Papua in 1961 Papuans have been bitterly repressed, with hundreds of thousands being killed. The Indonesian Government are desperate to hide what is happening from the rest of the world.”

Benny Wenda, leader of the United Movement for the Liberation of West Papua. (IMAGE: Supplied)

Benny Wenda, the recently elected leader of the United Movement for the Liberation of West Papua (UMLWP), who was granted political asylum in the United Kingdom 16 years ago, accused BP of “supporting an illegal occupation [and]operating in the middle of a genocide”.

British Labour party leader, Jeremy Corbyn, has long supported Wenda and West Papuan independence and endorsed a petition that the UMLWP leader presented to the United Nations last year.

Alex Sobel, a Labour MP and chairman of the British parliament’s all-party group on West Papua, called on BP to pull out of the country until it becomes self-governing.

“BP are operating amid clear human rights abuses. They should learn the lesson of Shell in [Nigeria] and withdraw from West Papua until such time the West Papuans are in control of their land.”

Launched in 2004, New Matilda is one of Australia's oldest online independent publications. It's focus is on investigative journalism and analysis, with occasional smart arsery thrown in for reasons of sanity. New Matilda is owned and edited by Walkley Award and Human Rights Award winning journalist Chris Graham.