WEST PAPUAN REFUGEES TO RETURN HOME SOON

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JAKARTA, Indonesia (July 7, 2000 - Indonesian Observer/Antara/Kabar Irian)---An estimated 680 of the 900 people who fled across the border from West Papua (Irian Jaya) into Papua New Guinea (PNG) in the 1980s after being terrorized by the Indonesian military will soon return home, an official said yesterday.

Secretary of Border Crossing Affairs in West Papua, F.X. Suryanto, told Antara in Jayapura that following the signing of a memorandum of understanding between West Papua and PNG, the refugees should start arriving home next week.

"In line with the first stage of the plan, they will be back here between July 10-14. But if there is bad weather, such as heavy rainfall, the plan will have to be carried out in August," he said.

Suryanto said the returnees would be relocated in Oksibil, Kwirok, Wamena and Jayapura.

"They will receive the same facilities as transmigrants, which means they (each family) will get 2.5 hectares of land, a house and basic commodities for one or more years."

The refugees, which Indonesian authorities prefer to describe as "border crossers" had been accused of being members of the Free Papua Movement, which the military used to refer to as a "security disturbance group."

Local government officials in West Papua have expressed hope that the people who fled to PNG will not be punished by the central government when they return.

Freedom Flag

A West Papuan leader yesterday claimed that President Abdurrahman ‘Gus Dur’ Wahid has given the green light for the hoisting of the territory’s Morning Star flag.

Executive Secretary of the Forum for Reconciliation Among Irian Jaya People (Foreri), Willy Mandowen, told Antara that Wahid gave his consent during a meeting with the Papua Council Presidium, led by Theys Hiyo Eluay, at the presidential palace in Jakarta on July 4.

During the meeting, the Presidium reported the results of the Second Papua National Congress, held in Jayapura during late May and early June, and submitted a report of accountability on the use of the Rp1 billion (US$ 106,950) contributed by the government to help finance the congress.

According to Mandowen, after Wahid heard the results of the congress and listened to some recommendations, he gave his consent for the hoisting of the Morning Star flag all over West Papua as of July 14.

However, the president stipulated that the West Papuan flag must be smaller and flown lower than Indonesia’s red-and-white flag.

"The Papua Council Presidium welcomes the president’s requirement, and praises Gus Dur as a statesman and true democrat," Mandowen said.

He said Gus Dur also backed a decision to hold a meeting at which West Papua’s history will be rewritten without the usual hokum and propaganda from Jakarta.

Theys Eluay is scheduled to open the three-week meeting in Merauke on July 14.

"President Wahid has made it clear that he raises no objection to any aspiration by the people, as long as it is still within the lawful corridor," said Mandowen.

The Papua Council Presidium which met with Gus Dur consists of Theys (chairman), Thom Beanal (deputy chairman), Mandowen, Thaha Alhamid (secretary general), Reverend Herman Awom (moderator), Zadrak Taime and John Mambor (members).

Cabinet Secretary Marsilam Simanjuntak, during a press conference at the Bina Graha presidential office on Wednesday, did not confirm or deny that Wahid had met with some West Papuan leaders on Tuesday evening.

"No comment," Simanjuntak told curious reporters.

The government has flatly ruled out independence for the mineral-rich province of some 2.5 million people - formerly Dutch New Guinea - which was officially incorporated into Indonesia with the help of the United Nations in 1969.

Wahid, who asked Parliament to rename the province Papua in deference to local sentiment, insists that Irian Jaya remain a part of the Unitary Republic of Indonesia.

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

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