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JAYAPURA, Irian Jaya (February 3, 2000 – Jakarta Post/Kabar Irian)---A local rights group has warned of possible unrest as local leaders have been campaigning and heightening the expectancy of independence for Irian Jaya.

The deputy chairman of the Jayapura-based Institution for Human Rights Studies and Advocacy (IHRSTAD), Aloysius Renwarin, told The Jakarta Post on Wednesday that influential local figures in the province were going to many villages and districts making claims about imminent independence.

"In Merauke, some said a popular Papuan figure went to Jakarta and met United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan to discuss freedom for West Papua. They also claimed that West Papua would be independent from Indonesia on May 1 this year," Aloysius said.

He did not identify who had tried to incite unrest.

"You can imagine what the people will do if West Papua is not independent on May 1," a Jayapura resident said.

Aloysius said a lack of leadership among state officials had led many in Irian Jaya to be easily influenced and provoked by irresponsible parties.

Irian Jaya has seen growing separatist sentiments rise in the last year. Advocates of an Independent West Papua have held numerous rallies to campaign for their cause.

Meanwhile, an influx of hundreds of people from riot-torn Maluku has hit several coastal towns in Irian Jaya.

The local Cendrawasih Post daily newspaper reported a total of 255 refugees from Bacan district, Ternate in North Maluku arrived in Sorong by ship.

"We are all worried about the influx of refugees. Who knows if some provocateurs set to create unrest in Irian Jaya were among them," Aloysius said.

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

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