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EDITORIAL Indonesian Observer Jakarta, Indonesia

August 2, 2000

Three thousand evacuees have landed in Irian Jaya (also known as West Papua) in search of personal safety. At first port authorities and law enforcement agencies refused to give them permission to land, but humanitarian reasons later saw them relent.

But it will not be so easy for the next batch of refugees to settle down in Irian Jaya since Biak and Manokwari have made it known that their towns are closed to refugees.

Deputy Governor of North Sulawesi Freddy Harry Sualang said that his provinces is closed to refugees because of the miserable living conditions of the refugees from Poso and Ambon who have settled down in that area.

This has further complicated any solution to the sectarian problems in Ambon, and there is an understandable fear among the people in Irian Jaya that similar disorder will erupt if no steps are taken to call a halt to this tragic situation.

In the meantime, it would be quite erroneous on our part to expect other countries to close their eyes to the display of a lack of human decency if certain Indonesian territories refuse entry to fellow Indonesians, with all the personal risks and consequences thereof for the refugees.

Whether we like it or not, United Nations relief agencies for refugees must step in and offer their assistance before these hapless people try to sail on to areas in Malaysia, the Philippines and Australia, a step which may well cause international incidents.

This should serve as a wake-up call for the government. It is later than the government thinks and quick action must be taken now before this part of the archipelago is irretrievably lost to Indonesia.

Things are moving faster than we think. For the political elite in Jakarta, the game of power continues to hold great fascination, but while they seek to play their political games, it seems certain territories may seek to separate themselves from the Indonesian archipelago, which straddles the equator like a string of pearls as the Dutch writer Multatuli once poetically described the beauty of Indonesia.

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