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JAKARTA, Indonesia (August 16, 2000 – Indonesian Observer/Kabar Irian)---Hundreds of people staged a peaceful rally in the West Papua (Irian Jaya) capital of Jayapura yesterday, demanding the People’s Consultative Assembly (MPR) cancel its decision to issue a decree that would prevent any parts of Indonesia from seceding and declaring independence.

Military and police officers said the situation in Jayapura was tense but calmed down after around 600 protesters dispersed after having gathered at the city’s Imbi Park, Antara reported.

The MPR has agreed to order President Abdurrahman ‘Gus Dur’ Wahid to be more serious in dealing with separatism in Irian Jaya and Aceh.

The protesters, led by separatist rebel leader Theys Eluai, dispersed after staging a free-speech forum.

Most locals stayed indoors during the rally and public transport services stopped operating.

Theys had on Monday threatened to occupy state buildings, including the governor’s office and the local parliament complex.

Fearing the protest could escalate or turn violent, the governor’s office and provincial legislative assembly building were tightly guarded by security forces, police said.

Many shops were closed and hundreds of people had difficulty finding public transport. Local authorities later provided commuters with two vehicles.

Yesterday’s protest marked the 38th anniversary of the so-called New York Agreement of 1962, in which the Dutch agreed to hand over the territory to the United Nations.

In 1963, the UN -- apparently acting under U.S. pressure, gave the region to Indonesia, with an understanding that by the end of the decade the West Papuan people would have a chance to vote as to whether they wanted to remain part of Indonesia.

However pro-independence activists say that the so-called "Act of Free Choice" in 1969 was a sham. All 1,022 selected village chiefs supposedly decided to remain part of Indonesia. Since then, rebels belonging to the Free Papua Movement have been battling Indonesian rule.

Until last year, the military ran the province with an iron hand. Torture and murder were reportedly common.

But thanks to the leniency of President Abdurrahman Wahid, the natives of Irian Jaya can now peacefully express their aspirations for independence without having to fear they will be shot.

Trikora Regional Military Commander Major General Albert Inkiriwang and Irian Jaya Police Chief Brigadier General S. J. Wenas led security patrols around Jayapura.

Antara reported that the provincial administration had ordered all schools and offices to suspend operations for the day. During the rally, protesters hoisted the rebel movement’s Morning Star flags alongside Indonesian flags at Imbi Park, which is located near the local parliament building and the office of the Irian Jaya Arts Council.

Inkiriwang and Wenas ordered their officers to confiscate weapons carried by the protesters. According to Antara, the security forces seized a number of sharp weapons, Molotov cocktails, grenades and handmade bombs from the protesters.

Theys has threatened to force the local parliament to officiate the changing of the province’s name from Irian Jaya to West Papua because Wahid has agreed to the change.

Papuan separatists finished a congress in June declaring that their territory had never been part of Indonesia. Wahid refused to recognize the results of congress because it had not included representatives of all groups in the province.

Wahid has ordered the military to take repressive measures against separatist activity in West Papua.

Residents of Puncak Jaya district in Irian Jaya yesterday lowered the separatist movement’s Morning Star flag out of their own volition, an official said.

Puncak Jaya district chief Andreas Coem said the flag lowering took happened in Bioga sub district, three days after a ceremony on Saturday to mark the end of a long-standing conflict among members of the Damal tribe.

Rival factions in the tribe ended their six-years of internal feuding and expressed their loyalty to the Unitary State of the Republic of Indonesia, he said.

Members of the tribe had previously hoisted the West Papua flag, but solely because of pressure from a rather small clique of people and because of ignorance, Coem said.

"After we approached them persuasively, they realized their mistake and lowered the flag themselves," Coem said, adding what the locals want is to free their region from isolation and focus on development.

In other parts of the country’s easternmost province, including Jayapura, the West Papua flag was still seen flying alongside the Indonesian flag.



JAKARTA, Indonesia (August 15, 2000 – Jakarta Post/Kabar Irian)---A demonstration led by the chairman of the Papua Presidium, Theys Hiyo Eluay, in Irian Jaya's capital of Jayapura has paralyzed the city.

The Antara news agency reported that offices, schools and shops in the city were closed following threats from Theys that he and his supporters would occupy the offices of the governor and the provincial legislative body.

Public transportation vehicles also were absent from the streets for fear they would be targeted by demonstrators.

Many people were left stranded, while others took motorcycle taxis to their destinations. They had to pay between Rp 10,000 and Rp 20,000 for a ride.

Theys called for the demonstration following statements by a number of legislators in the People's Consultative Assembly in Jakarta that they were opposed to changing the name of Irian Jaya to Papua, and the decision by President Abdurrahman Wahid not to allow Irianese to raise separatist flags after August 17.

Trikora (Irian Jaya) Military Commander Maj. Gen. Albert Inkiriwang and Irian Jaya Police chief Brig. Gen. S. J. Wenas personally led their personnel in patrolling the city.

Police Mobile Brigade personnel, led by Jayapura Police chief Supt. Daud Sihombing, searched people on the streets for weapons.

Daud said his officers confiscated a number of weapons, including a military-standard grenade, Molotov cocktails, two military-standard knives and a number of explosive devices. He said the police did not make any arrests.

He added that security personnel had taken all possible steps to protect the people from violent actions by any party.

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

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