JAKARTA, Indonesia (August 31, 2000 - Indonesian Observer/Kabar-Irian)---A pro-Jakarta supporter in West Papua (Irian Jaya) says separatists are responsible for a recent bloody incident in which police shot dead three natives.

Decky Asmuruf says Papua Council Presidium is solely to blame for the killings, because it had encouraged local residents of Sorong to believe their region was independent.

Separatists and locals early on August 22 hoisted West Papua’s Morning Star flag outside the Imanuel Boswezen Church in Kampung Baru, East Sorong sub district.

Police arrived a couple of hours later and demanded the flag be taken down.

A clash broke out, with locals hurling arrows and spears, while police started shooting.

Police shot dead three people and injured 17 others. Three policemen were stabbed. Some 26 rioters were arrested.

Decky, a former Sorong community official now living in the West Papua capital, Jayapura, blasted the separatist movement for causing the deaths.

"There is no escaping [the fact] that the Papua Council Presidium is responsible for the deaths of the three persons who were shot," he was quoted as saying by Antara.

Decky said the clash was the result of "miscommunication" between the presidium and grassroots people, who were made to believe that West Papua had gained its independence.

"The Papua Presidium should continue to monitor the resounding political situation, because a lapse would result in the grassroots people being sacrificed," he said.

Secretary General of the Papua Council Presidium, Thaha Alhamid, has expressed regret that police killed the three natives in Sorong.

Decky, who heads the Irian Jaya Social Affairs Department, called on all parties, particularly the Indonesian Defense Forces and police, to exercise wisdom and self-control in handling unrest in Indonesia’s easternmost province.

Human rights activists say thousands of people have died in years of fighting between Indonesian security forces and rebels in the region.

Many of West Papua’s two million people still live a near-Stone Age existence in the mountainous interior.

The tribesmen traditionally use poison arrows and spears in their conflicts.

In 1962, the Dutch agreed to hand over the territory to the UN, which a year later 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.

Activists say the so-called Act of Free Choice vote in 1969 was a disgraceful sham. All 1,022 village chiefs decided to remain part of Indonesia, allegedly because of intimidation. 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 and a wooden leg.

Torture and murder were reportedly common.

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