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JAKARTA, Indonesia (August 2, 1999 – Kabar-Irian/AFP)---People in the remote Indonesian province of Irian Jaya held a peaceful rally Monday to support the effort to make the Province an independent Melanesian state.

An estimated 5,000 protesters, many holding bibles, marched through the town of Timika singing hymns as they marched to the office of the Mimika regent to convey their demands, one witness said by phone.

However, an official at the Mimika police station, claimed the actual number of protesters was "only in the hundreds."

The protesters shouted, "Long live the Papua nation" and "Papua is a Melanesian nation," and carried banners saying "Colonialization must be abolished from the land of Papua."

"The young generation of Papua wants to be free from intimidation, human rights violations and they want to enjoy their natural resources," group leader Damaris Onawime said.

Separatist calls have been on the rise in Irian Jaya since the iron-fisted rule of former Indonesian President Suharto ended in May after a series of bloody street protests.

The Free Papua Movement (OPM) has been fighting for an independent Melanesian state, West Papua, since the former Dutch colony of West New Guinea became an Indonesian province in 1963. Irian Jaya shares a land border with independent Papua New Guinea.

The United Nations recognized Indonesian sovereignty over Irian Jaya in 1969.

The protesters were later received by Mimika Regent Titus Potereyaw and the local Chief of Police.

In their petition to the regent, the marchers demanded that Indonesia let go of Irian Jaya by 2000 and allow establishment of "Papua" coordinating posts (bases).

They threatened to continue to demonstrate until their demands were fulfilled.

Potereyaw said his office would convey the demands to the central government, but added a decision on the establishment of Papua posts should be left up to the Irian Jaya police.

Police have outlawed the presence of the coordinating posts set up by independence supporters in the province.

Indonesian President B.J. Habibie and Megawati Sukarnoputri, his leading rival for the presidency in 2000, have vowed not to allow the disintegration of Indonesia.


JAYAPURA, Irian Jaya (August 2, 1999 - Antara/Kabar Irian)---Irian Jaya Military Commander Major General Amir Sembiring said that certain groups in Irian Jaya have been trying to disrupt security in the province.

"However, their efforts have not been successful," he said in a speech to commemorate the 47th anniversary of the Irian Jaya Military Command here on Monday.

He pointed out that the groups have also been developing and promoting the issue of a Free Papua.

In addition, he said, they also take civilians hostage, such as what they recently did in the Arso resettlement area in the Jayapura regency.

According to Sembiring, the Indonesian military, in cooperation with Papua New Guinean security forces, managed to free the civilians who had been taken hostage.

He added that cooperation has been improving and will be further promoted in the years to come.

He called on the people in Bumi Cendrawasih to stay alert and not to be easily provoked by the negative rumors developed and launched by certain "irresponsible groups."

During the anniversary celebration, the guests, including Irian Jaya administration officials and military leaders, were also entertained with traditional local dance performances.

KABAR IRIAN ("Irian News")


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