IRIAN JAYAN PROTESTERS SIT-IN AT UN JAKARTA OFFICE

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JAKARTA, Indonesia (July 21, 1998 - The Australian/Braumann)---Hundreds of protesters from the remote Indonesian province of Irian Jaya staged a sit-in outside the UN office yesterday demanding independence from Indonesia.

The boisterous crowd, some wearing headbands bearing the separatist West Papua flag, sang traditional songs, beat drums and chanted: "This land is our land, this land is not your land."

The sit-in comes after Indonesian security forces fired on pro-independence protesters at several towns in Irian Jaya at the beginning of this month, killing at least two and wounding scores.

At the UN office, police and troops stood by, diverting traffic as 10 representatives from the group were received by Raffi Raja, head of the UN Development Program in Jakarta.

"We are from the All Indonesia Alliance of Papua Students, which represents the entire Papua people," said one of the 10, Demianus Wanimbo, after meeting Mr. Raja.

"We demand that our independence, proclaimed on December 1, 1961, be returned to us; that was the gist of our talks (with Mr. Raja)," he said.

"We are not asking for a new independence, but the independence that was intentionally robbed from us," he said, adding that West Papua was handed to Indonesia "for the sake of world politics at that time, to prevent a cold war between the Eastern and Western blocs."

He said Mr. Raja had promised to convey the demand to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

Irian Jaya, a former Dutch colony that shares a land border with Papua New Guinea, has a population of mostly Christian Melanesian tribesmen. It became a part of Indonesia in 1963 under a UN-supervised transfer legalized in 1969. The Free Papua Movement (OPM) has waged a low-level guerilla war, which peaked in the 1970s, against Indonesian sovereignty since the integration.

The students argued that the UN-recognized referendum in 1962 handing Irian Jaya to Indonesia involved only 1,025 people from Irian Jaya's population of 800,336.

® News Limited 1998

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