IRIANESE PROTEST AGAINST SPLITTING OF IRIAN JAYA INTO THREE PROVINCES

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JAKARTA, Indonesia (October 14, 1999 - AFP/Antara/Joyo Indonesian News/Kabar Irian)---Some 100 youths from Indonesia's easternmost province of Irian Jaya Thursday held a street protest in Central Jakarta to reject the government's decision to split the province into three.

The demonstration was held at a roundabout facing a posh hotel where the members of the People's Consultative Assembly, the highest legislative assembly, are staying during their ongoing national convention.

"The people of Irian Jaya reject the splitting up of Irian Jaya," said a large banner placed by the protesters in front of the hotel.

They claimed to represent 12 organizations in Irian Jaya, including the separatist Cendrawasih Free Papua Movement.

Meanwhile, some 1,500 youths and civilians holding banners and posters condemning the government's move to split the province, demonstrated outside the governor's office in the provincial capital of Jayapura, the state Antara news agency reported.

No clashes were reported from either demonstration.

The government, through a presidential decree issued earlier this year, split the huge province of Irian Jaya, which constitutes of half of the island of New Guinea, into three provinces -- Irian Jaya, Central Irian Jaya and West Irian Jaya.

Jakarta said the move was needed to better administer the huge province, while many Irianese charged it was designed to tighten Jakarta's control over them.

The Jakarta demonstrators, men and women, called for the presidential decree to be revoked and also for President B.J. Habibie, Home Minister Syarwan Hamid and Coordinating Minister for Politics and Security Affairs Feisal Tanjung, to be taken to court over the decree.

John Polimenanti, Chairman of the Irian Jaya Young Generation Communication Forum, one of the groups participating in the protest, said the decision had followed "intervention from Feisal Tanjung and the Indonesian armed forces."

He did not elaborate.

The demonstrators then marched to the UN building some 400 meters (1,320 feet) to the north where they raised the separatist West Papua flag.

They also installed banners on the fence of the UN office.

"The splitting of Irian Jaya will not solve the problems of the Papua nation," said one.

Opponents to the scheme to divide Irian Jaya into three have also said that it is aimed at discouraging separatism, as its natural resources were now split between three provinces, not a single province as in the past.

The demonstrators left peacefully after protesting at the UN office for about 30 minutes.

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

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