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SYDNEY, Australia (December 15, 1998 - ABC Radio)---Next year will mark the 30th anniversary of the so-called Act of Free Choice, a UN sponsored ballot that confirmed Indonesian sovereignty over Irian Jaya or West Papua.

But following the fall of President Suharto, pressure is growing from within and outside Irian Jaya, for that ballot - which involved just 1000 people - to be reviewed.

Mr. Wim Zongonnau has lived in exile in Papua New Guinea since 1969 and is leading a campaign for West Papuan Independence.

Currently on a three week visit to Australia, he called today for an independent international inquiry into the most recent claims of military atrocities on the island of Biak where up to two hundred people may have been massacred.

He told ABC's Phillip Lakser that the international community must pressure Jakarta to account for its appalling human rights record in Irian Jaya over the past three decades:

ZONGONNAU: Massacre is almost an activity under the Indonesian military regime in West Papua. There could be something like 200-thousand plus people disappeared in West Papua. It's not just by ignorance or by diseases but also massacred, murdered, tortured and within that, that's why it's important that the world now start focusing on West Papua in terms of human rights abuses.

LASKER: Do you detect that authorities in Indonesia since the change in leadership are now more receptive to calls for some sort of investigation?

ZONGONNAU: After the Suharto's fall that's the time there is a wind of freedom you know, democracy is prevailing in Indonesia and people are now able to talk their atrocities or the military regime in Indonesia and this is exactly the case in West Papua.

LASKER: And you are expecting to be able to talk to President Habibie I understand?

ZONGONNAU: Yeah, West Papuan's are demanding that there should be a dialogue or a talk with the Indonesian leader to see that the atrocities in West Papua need to be relooked at, as well as the demand by the West Papuans need to be heard by the Indonesian leader. West Papua's agenda is independence. It's important to get that message across to Habibie.

LASKER: Why is it important to get that message across to President Habibie as someone who's not considered by many Indonesians to be the legitimate leader of the country, someone who faces an election next year and isn't expected to survive. What can he possibly deliver?

ZONGONNAU: He himself said that he's prepared to listen what West Papuan's have to say. That's perhaps the main thing, that West Papuan's think there should be some discussion or talk with the Indonesian leader. He is the first man in Indonesian leadership who has indicated that he should listen to what the West Papuan have to say.

LASKER: Well, why would Indonesian authorities allow Irian Jaya to become independent, given that that might threaten the existence of the country as a whole? It may provide encouragement to other regions of Indonesia that also want independence.

ZONGONNAU: Well as you know maintaining a military rule in West Papua is a very costly exercise. In terms of the unity of the Indonesian republic they have to choose whether leave East Timor, West Papua to be independent or dragging on the conflict until it become more chaos. So we think it's safe for Indonesia to maintain its unity among the unitary system of a republic they are more safe without East Timor and West Papua, then they can be more prosperous. The more they keep their foothold the worse Indonesia can become. So in my view it's the best thing. It's painful for them to make the decision. Suddenly West Papua and East Timor are out.

LASKER: Obviously you believe or you have faith in the fact that West Papua will be independent one day. Do you have a target year or date in your mind?

ZONGONNAU: We think it could happen before 2,010. West Papuan's are no longer in isolation now. West Papuan's are now have reached the same level of Indonesian's and other people in terms of politics, economics and so on so it's a matter of opportunity. If there's opportunity for them to come out and express their views I think we see the independence not far away.

Forwarded by Kabar-Irian. KABAR IRIAN ("Irian News") For assistance, please e-mail: help-bi@irja.org (auto-responder) or admin@irja.org World Wide Web: http://www.irja.org

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