IRIANESE SEEK FACE-TO-FACE TALKS WITH NEW INDONESIAN PRESIDENT

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JAKARTA, Indonesia (November 16, 1999 – Jakarta Post – Kabar Irian)---A group of Irianese in Timika, Irian Jaya, are willing to lower the Morning Star separatist rebel flag if President Abdurrahman Wahid and Vice President Megawati Soekarnoputri grant their demand for face-to-face talks.

A staff member at the Amungme Tribal Custom Institute, who identified himself as Elias, told The Jakarta Post by telephone from Timika on Monday that the flag was still flying in the yard of the Three Kings Catholic Church there. It was hoisted last Wednesday.

"We will not lower the flag until President Abdurrahman, Vice President Megawati, People's Consultative Assembly Chairman Amien Rais and House of Representatives Speaker Akbar Tandjung arrive here for talks with us," Elias said.

Scores of Irianese are staying in tents near the flag, under the watchful eyes of security troops. The protesters are eating sweet potatoes and other traditional staple foods to survive.

In a statement, which was made available to The Jakarta Post over the weekend, the Irianese also demanded that United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan pressure the Indonesian government to settle the Irian Jaya case peacefully and wisely.

They also demanded the Indonesian Military (TNI) withdraw all combat troops from the province.

"Their presence has brought about many human rights abuses during the last 36 years of integration with Indonesia. They have slaughtered, tortured, beaten and arbitrarily arrested many Papuans, and raped Papuan women," they said.

Meanwhile, Aloysius Renwarin, a staffer at the Jayapura-based Institution for Human Rights Studies and Advocacy (IHRSTAD) told the Post from Jayapura on Monday that four members of the provincial legislative council had left for Timika to hold a dialog with the demonstrators.

"The people in Timika have vowed not to allow the legislators to return to Jayapura, until Abdurrahman, Megawati, Amien and Akbar arrive at Timika and meet with them," Renwarin said.

No violence has been reported so far. Schools, government offices, private companies and public markets are running as usual. Public transportation also remains unaffected.

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

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