IRIAN JAYA HAS A DREAM: IT MAY BECOME A NIGHTMARE

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By Andrew Kilvert

JAYAPURA, Irian Jaya, Indonesia (December 1, 1999 – Sydney Morning Herald)---Thousands of indigenous Papuans have gathered on the outskirts of this capital of Indonesia's easternmost province, Irian Jaya, from outlying villages to join street protests and flag-raising ceremonies today in support of independence from Jakarta.

About 300 young men were enrolling in the ''Papuan Army'' at the house of a leading independence supporter and, wearing black T-shirts emblazoned with the ''Morning Star'' flag of the Free Papua Movement, practicing military-style drills.

In Timika, on the south side of Irian Jaya's rugged mountainous spine and close to the huge Freeport-McMoran copper and gold mine, 27 tent ''embassies'' representing tribal groups from across the territory occupy the grounds of the local Catholic church, which is festooned with Morning Star flags and a sign over the gate saying in English: ''God will deliver our land unto us.''

Every night, warriors from the Ndani and Nduga tribes have sung war songs while others have paraded in full traditional regalia to salute the flag. Foreign visitors are required to present their passports to the protest secretariat in bizarre mimicry of an immigration procedure.

Security men stand outside taking note of those entering. A German tourist who was seen taking video footage later had his hotel room raided by soldiers demanding to see his recording.

At Lake Sentani outside Jayapura yesterday, many protesters began the 40-kilometer (24 mile) march to the town center, where they plan to raise the independence flag in front of the provincial government office and declare self-rule.

Similar protests are planned in centers across Irian Jaya today, marking the anniversary of the day in 1961 when the former colonial rulers, the Dutch, handed self-government to the Melanesian population - triggering military confrontation by then president Sukarno's Indonesia, which claimed the territory as successor state to the Netherlands East Indies.

It is feared the flag-raisings will provoke a bloody crackdown by the Indonesian military, as one did on Biak Island in July 1998 when at least 26 people were killed by Indonesian forces.

Hundreds of extra troops have been flown into Irian Jaya from Sulawesi and Ambon to bolster this already heavily militarized province. Some have been deployed along the protest route in Jayapura, and others are camped around the airport at Sentani.

Jayapura has already taken on a deserted air: many families from other parts of Indonesia have fled to safe areas and others keep off the streets. The military have set up checkpoints on main roads and commandeered local transport.

Among the Papuans, however, the approaching anniversary has taken on a festive air, with many openly wearing independence-flag emblems and occasionally calling out ''Papua Merdeka'' (Free Papua). Activists have been manufacturing the outlawed flags along with T-shirts and other paraphernalia in clandestine workshops.

Unlike in East Timor earlier or in Aceh now, the Papuans of Irian Jaya are trying to overturn a United Nations-conducted act of consultation that has already taken place.

Despite their defiance of Indonesian paratroop and torpedo-boat attacks, the Papuans and their Dutch supporters were eventually sold out by President John Kennedy's U.S. Government for the sake of Cold War politics.

Indonesia was allowed to take over the territory in 1963, pending a popular consultation in 1969. This ''Act of Free Choice'' turned out to be a unanimous vote to join Indonesia by 1,025 ''representatives'' who had been handpicked, coerced and bribed by Indonesian intelligence operatives.

 

CROWD GATHERS IN JAYAPURA TO RAISE SEPARATIST FLAG

JAKARTA, Indonesia (December 1, 1999 – Jakarta Post/Antara/Kabar Irian)---Hordes of people are pouring in into Jayapura, the capital of Irian Jaya, to attend a ceremony marking the anniversary of the West Papua separatist group on Wednesday.

By 2.30 a.m. on Wednesday the people, who have been arriving from various districts in Jayapura since Tuesday afternoon, had formed a large crowd at the city center, Antara reported.

Among the crowd are students, youths and residents from Abepura district, who walked the 15-kilometer (nine-mile) distance to Jayapura to witness the event. The Abepura youths distributed copies of the song Tanahku Papua (Papua My Land), composed by I.S. Kejne, a Dutch missionary. The song became the national anthem when Papua declared independence in 1961.

It is a happy gathering, with the crowd singing religious hymns and dancing traditional songs to the accompaniment of flutes and drums, Antara said.

Police are seen guarding important government buildings and public facilities, including the local legislature building. Special security deployment is seen at the Art Council building, where the separatist flag was first raised on Dec. 1, 1961, when the province was placed under the United Nations Temporary Authority.

Theys Eluay, a self-proclaimed leader of the separatist movement, had earlier said he planned to raise the separatist flag on Wednesday at 5:00 a.m. local time. The flag would then be lowered at 6:00 p.m. on Wednesday.

Despite the tight security, a number of shops and cafes are still open near the gathering place.

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

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