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JAYAPURA, Irian Jaya, Indonesia (December 13, 1999 – Jakarta Post/Kabar Irian)---Irianese say they are ready for President Abdurrahman Wahid's yearend visit and are hopeful that the visit will resolve widespread alleged human rights abuse cases in the easternmost province.

The Irianese, many of whom opt to call themselves Papuans, said that the President's visit would be meaningful if it could improve the relationship between the Papuans and the government of Indonesia.

John Rumbiak, a consultant for the Institute of Human Rights Studies and Advocacy, said Papuans were waiting for the President's response to the alleged rights abuses, which are said to have taken place for more than 30 years.

He said Gus Dur, as the President is popularly called, may have some awareness about the alleged rights violations in Irian Jaya.

"However, since Gus Dur has yet to directly hear from the victims of the violations, a face-to-face dialog with the Papuans, especially the victims of the rights abuses, is imperative," John said.

Demands for independence have been raised across the province due to alleged widespread unresolved rights violations in the past and unfair revenue sharing from mining exploitation ventures.

Farmer Nas Apasaray told The Jakarta Post it was expected that the President would bring good news to the Irianese.

"We just hope that he has perceived the root of the problems. I do believe that he will be able to offer a democratic and peaceful solution to settle the case," Apasaray said.

He added that no one had any intention of barring the President from visiting Irian Jaya.

"Welcome to West Papua. We Papuans are peaceful people."

Another welcoming remark was made by Yoseph Rumaseb, a youth from Biak, who said that the President was expected to respond positively to the Papuans' complaints about alleged rampant rights abuses in the province, home to one of the world's largest gold and cooper mining ventures.

"The rights violations in Biak in 1998 have yet to be dealt with," Yoseph said.

A mother of three children, Yosephina Pitja, said she hoped that the President would take the time to listen to the grievances of Papuan women.

"If he does not mind, he should listen to our experiences of how many Papuan women have been sexually molested," said the vegetable seller from Abepura market.

President Abdurrahman, who has just completed an official visit to troubled Ambon, is slated to visit Irian Jaya at the end of this month.

New name

Meanwhile, Rev. Herman Awom, deputy chairman of the Evangelical Christian Church said he hoped President Abdurrahman would agree to rename Irian Jaya West Papua.

"By 2000 we want to have a new official name. We hope that Gus Dur is the man to announce that," Awom said.

He also said he wanted the President to clarify why he and four other Irianese had been banned since June 1999 from traveling abroad by the Directorate General of Immigration.

The four are Willy Mandowen, a lecturer at the state University of Cendrawasih, Tom Beanal, an Amungme tribal leader, Beny Giay, head of the research and development commission at the Christian and Alliance Missionary and Octovianus Mote, a Kompas reporter.

The National Human Rights Commission has demanded that the government lift the ban, but as yet there has been no response from the government.

The Irianese have also demanded explanations about the 1996 Mapnduma massacre, during which the Indonesian Military (TNI) held an operation to release 24 hostages abducted by the separatist Free Papua Movement (OPM).

Some people were killed in the operation, and a staff member from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has alleged the illegal use of the organization's facilities in the operation.



JAKARTA, Indonesia (December 13, 1999 – Jakarta Post/Kabar Irian)---Mama Yosefa Alomang, one of two winners of this year's Yap Thiam Hien human rights award, said as an activist for Irian Jaya tribal rights she demanded the award be presented to her in her home province.

"I refuse to accept the award in Jakarta because I am fighting for the rights of the Irianese. I believe it is natural that I receive it here so that the people in Irian Jaya know how important this award is," Antara quoted her as saying in Jayapura, Irian Jaya, on Saturday.

Mama Yosefa, 50, was conspicuously absent from Friday's awards ceremony. Fellow honoree Sarah Lary Mboeik received her award at the ceremony here, which was also attended by President Abdurrahman Wahid.

The executive director of the Center for Human Rights Studies, Todung Mulya Lubis, said on Friday that Mama Yosefa sent a letter saying she would not travel to Jakarta until Abdurrahman visited Irian Jaya.

However, questions were raised about the authenticity of the seven-page letter because the tribal rights campaigner is known to be illiterate.

There were also fears she was being used by certain parties to exploit the award as a means of gaining attention for the separatist movement in Irian Jaya.

Yosefa said on Saturday her demand that the award be presented to her in Irian Jaya was not a political ploy.

She asserted that her struggle all these years had not been a lone one, but she had been aided by her fellow Irianese who also deserved recognition.

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