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JAYAPURA, Irian Jaya (April 19, 2000 – Indonesian Observer/Kabar Irian)---Irian Jaya wants to stop Merpati flights operating in the province because of its poor performance over the past 20 years.

Merpati has held a monopoly on flights in Irian Jaya for decades and has received considerable government funding, but its services have never satisfied locals, said Deputy Governor J.G.R. Djopari.

He said President Abdurrahman Wahid should cancel the airline tender that would allow a foreign carrier to take over from Merpati.

Djopari said many airlines from Europe and Australia could do a much better job than Merpati by providing cheaper tickets and lower operational costs.

He lamented the lousy services provided by Merpati.

"I can give you a small example of this. For almost 20 years, the government has been preparing 12 twin-otter planes to serve all (flight) routes in Irian Jaya, but today only 2 or 3 of the planes are air-worthy. The others must be grounded because they are lacking spare parts," he said.

He said that due to the lack of air transport in Irian Jaya, coordination between regents in remote areas of the province has become poor. He said any meetings have been canceled because certain places can only be reached by small aircraft.

In the past, the central government promised to complete the Trans-Irian Highway, connecting Jayapura and Wamena. But the project never progressed beyond an initial phase. There has been no indication that it will resume.

"We have natural resources, but we are neglected when it comes to development," said Djopari.

The House of Representatives (DPR) Commission V, which deals with industry and trade, has asked private airlines to resume international flights to and from Frans Kaisiepo Airport on Irian Jaya

Irian Jaya is now seeking the possibility of reopening the route by private airlines, according to commission member Jaap P. Salsa.

The Biak-Honolulu-Los Angeles and Biak-Tokyo flights by national airline Garuda Indonesia were discontinued in 1994 for financial reasons.

A five-star hotel in Biak owned by the local administration is now on the brink of bankruptcy as the result of the discontinuation of international flights, said Salsa.

Garuda has insisted it won’t resume the international flights due to its severe debts.

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