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Page last updated at 12:16 GMT, Wednesday, 19 May 2010 13:16 UK

New UK PM becomes West Papuan hero

Tribespeople hold up a poster of David Cameron. Photo: Albert Tabuni
The tribespeople hope Mr Cameron will now highlight their campaign. Photo: Albert Tabuni

A province of Indonesia watched the outcome of the UK general election with great interest.

Since David Cameron became the UK's prime minister, the tribespeople of West Papua have been celebrating.

They hope Mr Cameron will help them in their bid to gain independence from Indonesia.

David Cameron previously met an exiled West Papuan, Benny Wenda, who now lives in the UK.

Soon after being granted political asylum in the UK in 2002, Mr Wenda began campaigning for independence for West Papua from Indonesia.

Tribespeople hold up a poster of David Cameron
There is widespread resistance to Indonesian rule. Photo: Albert Tabuni

He set up the Free West Papua Campaign which raises awareness of alleged human rights abuses in the region.

Albert Tabuni, a human rights activist, has described the announcement as "happy news" for the people of West Papua.

Mr Tabuni said: "All over the highlands people are celebrating. We hope that Mr David Cameron will see our messages and help us.

"We need to be free from Indonesia rule. The situation is now very bad here."

All over the highlands people are celebrating
Albert Tabuni
Human rights activist

Mr Tabuni also said friends of his, Buchtar Tabuni and Victor Yiemo, are now political prisoners after being jailed by the government for taking part in a demonstration.

West Papua is the western half of the island of New Guinea, with the eastern half being the independent state of Papua New Guinea.

The region has had a troubled past following independence from Dutch colonial rule in the 1950s.

Buchtar Tabuni and Victor Yiemo. Photo: Albert Tabuni
Buchtar Tabuni and Victor Yiemo are now political prisoners. Photo: Albert Tabuni

At the end of 1961, West Papua held a Congress at which its people declared independence, and raised their new flag - the Morning Star.

Soon after, Indonesia asserted its claim to the territory and invaded, but was held back by Dutch and local forces. Indonesia turned to Russia for support, forcing the US to lean on the Dutch to accept Indonesia's claims.

It was temporarily handed over to the UN but control was later handed over to Indonesia.

In 1969 there was widespread resistance to Indonesian rule so the people of West Papua were asked to vote in a referendum - the Act of Free Choice. The vote, widely criticised as rigged, voted for Indonesia control.



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