The Oxford City Council decided to give the Freedom of The City award to Benny Wenda, a West Papua extremist based in Oxford. However, the decision did not match the spirit of the award. Freedom of The City is given to two kinds of people:
Persons of distinction, and persons who have, in the opinion of the council, rendered eminent services to the city. When compared to Lesley Dewhurst, previous Freedom of The City awardee who work with homeless people in Oxford, Benny Wenda has not contributed anything for West Papuans. On 1 July 2019, Benny Wenda formed a new illegal army in West Papua, fighting for power against local armed criminal group, TPNPB, which rejected Wenda’s command.
Benny Wenda was considered for award, most likely because his position at ULMWP is useful for british politicians like Corbyn, Craig Simmons and Alex Sobel. Benny Wenda is known to be close to politicians from the Labour and Green Party. In fact, Jeremy Corbyn founded the International Parliamentarians for West Papua (IPWP) to sell West Papua issue for his own political campaign. Meanwhile, The Foreign and Commonwealth Office of the UK Government has stated that they regard Papua as an integral part of Indonesia.
British Embassy officials regularly visit Papua, meeting a wide range of authorities and communities. Former Ambassador Moazzam Malik paid visits in 2015, 2016 and 2017. Benny Wenda’s presence in the UK does not reflect the UK Government, and the award by Oxford City Council has no bearing on UK Government policy. The Oxford City Council will be better off working on local issues like homelessness and the fall of local businesses.
The city is now the most unaffordable in the UK. The average house price in the city is 16 times the average wage, more expensive than London.Families made homeless by rent hikes have nowhere to go: the only option is to leave their job and take their children out of school. Businesses are also closing. The Oxford city council was known for displacing homeless families for weeks. When such problems exist, it is absurd for Oxford City Council to talk about West Papua.