INDONESIAN GOVERNMENT URGED TO ACT PRUDENTLY ON PAPUAN ASPIRATION

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JAKARTA, Indonesia (June 6, 2000 – Jakarta Post/Kabar Irian)---Legislators and political observers on Monday called on the government to use prudence, rather than force, in reacting to a declaration of independence by the Papuan Congress.

Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI Perjuangan) Deputy Chairman Lukas Karl Degey said people in Irian Jaya were now awaiting some sort of concerted reaction from the government.

"The government should take wise steps to accommodate the Papuan people's aspirations and implement a special autonomy to allow the least developed province to catch up with other provinces," he said.

Lukas said his faction would support a national referendum to determine the future of the mineral rich province.

Lukas, who is of Papuan descent, called on the government and security authorities to adopt a peaceful approach in maintaining security and order in the province.

Another legislator, Hayono Isman from the Unity and Justice Party (PKP), called on the government and security authorities to avoid repressive actions in handling the independence issue.

"A militaristic approach will not be effective in solving the conflict because it will result in more casualties," Hayono said.

He said the government should open a peaceful dialog with the political elite in the province to seek a peaceful solution to all problems, and should implement special autonomy for the province.

Supporting Lukas' view, Hayono also stressed the need for a national referendum because Irian Jaya is one of Indonesia's many provinces and the Papuan people cannot declare its independence unilaterally.

"A national referendum should be held if they (Papuan people) want to be separated from Indonesia," he said.

The Secretary General of the National Mandate Party (PAN) Bara Hasibuan also called for a "peaceful resolution" to the matter and suggested that special autonomy may be an avenue which would resolve the issue.

He warned the government not to hastily dismiss the calls for independence.

"Even though the aspirations for independence may still be in the minority, it is a real, growing and developing issue," he said.

"We don't want the situation to get out of hand, which could end up with the use of military action... If it becomes bloody the political cost would be too high for the government," he remarked.

"It could be a second Aceh."

Bara conceded that there is no overnight solution to the problem, but through the promotion of dialog and convincing the province's people of the merits of remaining with Indonesia, a bloody resolution could be avoided.

Separately, a tribal leader in Sorong regency, Apolos Sewa, rejected the idea of having a national referendum, arguing that there is no formal legal basis from the People's Consultative Assembly (MPR) which states that the province is part of Indonesia.

"There was no MPR decree stating that Papua is part of Indonesia, so our independence does not depend on the Indonesian people's opinion," Apolos told The Jakarta Post in Jayapura, Irian Jaya on Monday.

He suggested that the government and the people of Irian Jaya study the history of the region. "We just want the government to recognize our sovereignty as a nation, which was declared on December 1, 1961," he added.

Dutch anthropologist Coen Holtzappel from Leiden University also implied that the independence of Papua would be a better option for both sides, rather than forcing unity through militaristic means.

"(By letting the region free) Indonesia can get a kind of 'commonwealth'," Holtzappel said in Yogyakarta.

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

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