PNG TO SEND 903 ACROSS THE BORDER TO IRIAN JAYA

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JAKARTA, Indonesia (October 7, 1999 – Antara/Indonesian Observer/Kabar Irian)---The Papua New Guinea (PNG) government plans to return 903 persons who fled across the border from eight regencies in Irian Jaya several years ago.

The head of the Social and Political Office in Merauke, Leonardus Letsoin, said that those who had crossed the border are now living in eight refugee camps in the neighboring country.

"They fled Iran Jaya province to the neighboring country (PNG) several years ago because they were provoked by local groups that were creating disturbances for them," he said in Merauke regency, Irian Jaya, yesterday.

"The return of these people to Irian Jaya will be carried out by the PNG government in cooperation with the Catholic Church and local staff," said Letsoin, as reported by Antara.

He acknowledged that the return of these people who had fled across the border had no relationship with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), as its representative office in PNG had been closed since July 1996 and the UN agency had stopped its assistance for refugees from Irian Jaya living in PNG refugee camps.

The PNG administration carried out a strict selection process with the Irian Jaya refugees to determine those who wanted to leave the country and those who were eager to become citizens of PNG.

Based on several evaluations carried out by the PNG administration, it was ascertained that a total of 903 people were eager to return to their villages in Irian Jaya province.

"A few thousands of those originally from Irian Jaya are likely to remain in the refugee camps of PNG for an uncertain length of time," Letsoin said.

Reports point to an improving security situation in Irian Jaya as among the reasons why these people want to return, following the government’s plan to divide the region into three provinces namely: Irian Jaya, Central Irian Jaya and East Irian Jaya provinces.

Regional autonomy and the improved financial distribution between the central and the provincial governments have also been cited as significant factors that will help improve the political, economic and social situations in the province.

 

AMBON REFUGEES IN FAKFAK, IRIAN JAYA ADD TO SOCIAL PROBLEMS

JAKARTA, Indonesia (October 7, 1999 – Indonesian Observer/Kabar Irian) ---Thousands of refugees from Ambon now living in Fakfak, Irian Jaya, have not received any assistance from the Social Ministry, and are being neglected.

Yet this situation has arisen not because of any negligence on the part of the Social Ministry. "There is this problem because the refugees do not live in areas designated by the local administration, but stay with their families in Fakfak," said Steve Pocerato from the local Social Service.

He said that since the 1960s, around 4,000 families from Ambon had been resettled in Fakfak, and thousands more Ambon refugees who have entered the region during the last few weeks, are now living with them. "Each of the families accommodate around five persons, causing new social problems for the local people."

He added that since the Social Ministry had not collected data on the new arrivals, funds from the department were not allocated for them.

"Of course, I know that local families suffer from the economic problem. They have told me that they are lacking in food and need urgent help," he said.

Following the recent riots, most of the refugees had come to Fakfak using boats, while some even came on the liner, KM Rinjani, belonging to the national shipping line, PT Pelni.

Fakfak harbormaster Albert Tethool said that most of the refugees, on board the liner did not have tickets to their destination, but the ship’s captain, however, allowed them on board on humanitarian grounds.

The local people are now hoping that riots in Ambom will not be repeated in the region, as they themselves had already suffered social problems.

Meanwhile, Fakfak police head Lieutenant Colonel Totok Kasmiarto, commenting on rumors that some refugees are illegally trying to produce built-up firearms to raise money, said, "I have ordered my personnel to investigate, but so far no one has been arrested related to the rumor."

The police, however, have gathered the particulars of those refugees suspected of being thugs, or criminals. And to prevent any unwanted social problems, two platoons of Mobile Brigade personnel have been posted to the area.

KABAR IRIAN ("Irian News") Website: http://www.irja.org/ 

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