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MANOKWARI, Irian Jaya (August 10, 1998-Antara News/KABAR IRIAN/Irian News)---The military will no longer emphasize pursuing groups who created security disturbances in Irian Jaya but will instead focus their activities on improving the people's welfare in the country's eastern-most province, Chief of the Trikora Regional Military Command, Major General Amir Sembiring, said Saturday.

The military's future operations in the interior of the province will focus on developing the people's undeveloped areas and on improving their prosperity.

In this connection, he said PT. Freeport Indonesia, one of the world's biggest gold mining companies, has pledged to finance the development of 14 villages in the province's mountainous areas.

Sembiring said the McMoran copper and gold mining's financial aid would be used for the people's empowerment programs in Mapenduma, Jilla, and Hoya villages. However, he did not reveal the amount of money the company will provide for supporting the humanitarian programs.

Sembiring said that the programs are expected to improve the local people's feelings, who in the past were not satisfied with the military operations in the areas.

Sembiring further said the rescue operations launched by the military to help release researchers held hostage by armed gangs a few years ago were viewed as involving an excess of human rights abuses.

The kidnapped researchers were members of the Lorentz Research Team, who were held hostage by armed gang leader Kelly Kwalik.

The security personnel who were alleged to have committed human rights abuses have been brought to an open military court in Timika, he said, adding that the local people could therefore see for themselves that those found guilty were punished.

On the presence of security personnel in villages, Maj. Gen. Sembiring said they will work hand-in-hand with tribal chiefs, community figures and church leaders to rebuild damaged houses for orphans, widows and local people.

On the role of the military in improving the welfare of the local people, Sembiring said soldiers will soon start taking up agricultural tools to help farmers till their land.

"It is better for military men in Irian Jaya to join the villagers. Through this kind of operation, we hope to encourage members of security disturbance groups to lay down their arms and return to their villages," he said.

KABAR IRIAN ("Irian News") For assistance, please e-mail: [email protected] (auto-responder) or [email protected] World Wide Web:

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