INDONESIAN SOLDIERS IN PNG

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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (Dec. 6, 2000 – Post-Courier)---Indonesian soldiers are already on the PNG side of the border in pursuit of West Papuan freedom fighters, it was claimed in Parliament yesterday.

Middle Fly MP Bitan Kuok, in a question to Prime Minister Sir Mekere Morauta, wanted to know what the government was doing to safeguard PNG citizens from being terrorized by the soldiers.

Mr. Kuok appealed to Sir Mekere to at least make representation to the Indonesian government about the fact that its soldiers should not cross over and should show respect for PNG soil as PNG did for Indonesia’s side of the border.

Sir Mekere promised to take up the matter with the Indonesian Ambassador but reaffirmed the government’s position to Parliament again that PNG viewed the independence push in West Papua, a province of Indonesia, as an internal matter.

A report from AAP last night said 200 people fleeing the clashes between separatists and Indonesian troops had backed up at the border with PNG at Wutung, in West Sepik province, since Friday.

Families from the Dani tribe in the Highlands of Irian Jaya have been traveling to the checkpoint in groups of 30 to 40 since last week.

Sir Mekere agreed there would be spill over effects on the PNG side of the common land border and the government was taking steps to minimize its effects on the lives of PNG citizens. He said soldiers and policemen had been sent to the border to keep a PNG security presence.

Sir Mekere said there was little else the government could do but it would not allow its side of the border to be used by rebel fighters as a staging point for attacks on Indonesian troops.

* IN Port Moresby yesterday a West Papuan group protested against the jailing of four leaders by the Indonesian authorities.

Panel Pasifik yesterday said four presidium members of Dewan Papua (Council of Papua) out of a total of 31 were behind bars in Jayapura. They are Theys H. Eluay (chairman), Thaha M. Alhamid (secretary general),

John S. Mambor (member) and Dr. Don A.L. Flassy (member).

A fifth leader was arrested by police in Jayapura yesterday according to AAP. He is Reverend Herman Awom.

"Their open and peaceful pursuit of political freedom for independence of their homeland was their sole crime,’’ the group said in a statement yesterday.

They, along with 60 other pro-independence hardliners, are the newest political prisoners of Indonesia’s "Era Reformasi," the group said.

For additional reports from The Post-Courier, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/The Post-Courier (Papua New Guinea).

Provided by Vikki John ( VIKKI@law.uts.edu.au

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