WEST PAPUA GOVERNOR CALLS FOR RELEASE OF INDEPENDENCE LEADERS

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JAYAPURA, Indonesia (December 14, 2000 – ABC Australia News Online)---The Jakarta-appointed governor of the Indonesian province of West Papua has called for the government to release five detained Papuan independence leaders.

Governor Jaap Salosa said he has reported to Indonesia's President Abdurrahman Wahid that they should be released.

Mr. Salosa, who spoke to journalists after talks with President Wahid, was referring to Theys Eluay, the head of the pro-independence Papua Presidium, and four other presidium members.

Mr. Eluay and the others were arrested in a security crackdown on separatists in the provincial capital of Jayapura.

Earlier this month, Mr. Wahid said that Mr. Eluay and his colleagues should be freed by December 5th, but police ignored the demand and pressed subversion charges against all five.

President Wahid is scheduled to visit West Papua on Christmas Day to attend a celebration with local civil and religious leaders.

For additional reports from ABC Australia News Online, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Radio/TV News/ABC News Online.

 

TENSION MOUNTS IN IRIAN JAYA AS POLICE BLAMED FOR DEATH

JAYAPURA, Indonesia (December 14, 2000 - ABC Australia News Online)---Shots were fired and authorities were on full alert Wednesday in the Irian Jaya town of Manokwari after police were blamed for the death of a man in their custody.

"There were attacks on a truck, mobs forming and various obstructions put on the road following rumors that a man had died in police hands at the hospital," the Manokwari police chief, Superintendent Bambang Budi Santoso, told AFP by telephone.

"We have put the police force on full alert so as to prevent the incident from spreading and turning into a riot," Mr. Santoso said, adding that by sundown the situation was "under control."

He said that officers had picked up an inebriated man in the Amban area of the town and taken him to the hospital.

The man, identified only as Yeskiel, died shortly afterwards, sparking rumors that he died as a result of police torture.

"The man died of complications because of his drunken state and the hospital can testify to that. There is no sign of torture or violence on his body," Mr. Santoso said.

An angered relative of the man later raised a mob and headed for the police post. Officers intervened and dispersed the gang as they set upon a truck driven by a migrant worker.

Residents said shots were fired in the Amban area, but were unaware of any victims.

In the past few months, Irian Jaya has seen several cases of violence between locals and migrant settlers amid attempts by Indonesian forces to quell a rising separatist movement.

The former Dutch colony came under Indonesian control in 1969 after a controversial United Nations referendum.

Separatists maintain that a proclamation of independence in December 1961 was valid and should be recognized by Jakarta.

For additional reports from ABC Australia News Online, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Radio/TV News/ABC News Online.

 

SANDAUN GOVERNOR GOES TO TROUBLED WEST PAPUA BORDER

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (December 14, 2000 - The National/PINA Nius Online)---Sandaun Governor Robert Sakias and his chief advisor and provincial administrator, Maran Nateleo, have gone to the border to assess the situation there.

The newly elected governor gave his assurances that he would attend to the escalating problems at the border.

Spokesman for Mr. Sakias, Gabrial Dekwalen, told The National that the provincial government had received reports of "refugees" crossing the border into PNG following a crackdown on pro-independence West Papuans by the Indonesians.

He said Mr. Sakias had also received reports that Indonesian soldiers had crossed the border into Papua New Guinea in pursuit of the separatist elements.

The governor and Mr. Neteleo are expected to review the security arrangements at the border, the reports on the crossings by Indonesian soldiers and the separatist groups.

"The Indonesians are using highly trained paratroopers ... they must mean real business this time," a source in Vanimo said when contacted.

Residents in Vanimo, where the situation is said to be very tense, said they are on the alert should anything happened at the border and spill into Papua New Guinea.

The Catholic Church said this week that fighting between the Indonesian troops and the West Papua separatists has spilled into PNG but the Papua New Guinea government is refusing to protect hundreds of refugees that have fled the fighting.

"The fighting is spreading and is getting worse," West Sepik Diocese Bishop Cesare Boniventu said.

The situation prompted Bishop Boniventu to urge the United Nations to pressure the Papua New Guinea Government to accord refugee status to the women and children who have fled into PNG near Vanimo.

Meanwhile, West Papua independence supporters in Port Moresby have expressed disappointment at the refusal by police to allow their planned protest march.

The Port Moresby-based citizens and some non-governmental organization sympathizers had planned for a peaceful march to the Indonesian embassy in Port Moresby last Friday to present their appeal to Ambassador Benny Mandalika.

However, police refused to approve the march.

"We regret that the police had made a decision not to allow us to stage a peaceful demonstration as planned," spokesman Franzalbert Joku said.

"We feel this is a suppression of the freedom of speech as laid out in the Constitution."

Mr. Joku said the purpose of the protest march was to appeal to the Indonesian government to initiate a dialogue so that a solution can be worked out on the West Papua separatist struggle.

He said: "In my opinion, (the march) was a good way of reaching the Indonesian government.

"However, now that we have been stopped, we will find other means to deliver the appeal note to the embassy in Port Moresby."

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

 

WEST PAPUANS 'NOT REFUGEES', SAYS UNITED NATIONS OFFICE

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (December 14, 2000 - Post-Courier/PINA Nius Online)---The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) office in Australia says 300 West Papuans camped on the border of Indonesian-ruled West Papua and Papua New Guinea are not refugees.

Foreign Affairs sources said yesterday they had sought UNHCR help on the issue. They said that only children and women were crossing into Papua New Guinea.

The sources said UNHCR told PNG officials that these children and women could not be accepted as refugees because it looked as if they were dumped there for Papua New Guinea to look after.

They said that was why the UNHCR did not recognize these people as refugees.

They said the UNHCR had stated that the West Papuans’ needs were not the responsibility of the Papua New Guinea government or the United Nations but that of the Indonesian government.

The sources said most of the people were from Wamena in the highlands of West Papua, which is believed to be the pro-independence fighters’ stronghold.

They said the immediate requirements of the women and children, like accommodation and food, would be catered for by the two countries under existing agreements.

Vanimo Catholic Bishop Cesare Bonaventu on Monday appealed to the United Nations to take charge of the situation because he was under instructions from Waigani not to do anything.

Bishop Bonaventu said many of the refugees were ill.

West Papua Council spokesman Franzalbert Joku said he was not surprised by the UNHCR position. He said this had always been UNHCR’s stand against black refugees.

Meanwhile, a combined Papua New Guinea military and police force is yet to be deployed along the border.

Brigadier General Carl Marlpo, asked when the troops would be deployed to the border, said it would depend on funds.

General Marlpo said to conduct a full scale border operation would cost at least K 1.5 million (US$ 501,000) considering the fuel, food rations and the hire of aircraft.

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

 

AUSTRALIA’S DOWNER WARNS OF WEST PAPUA BLOODBATH

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (December 14, 2000 - Papua New Guinea Post-Courier/PINA Nius Online)---Australian Foreign Affairs Minister Alexander Downer has warned of a "bloodbath" in Indonesian West Papua if the international community backs the independence movement.

"The consequences of encouraging Irian Jaya to become independent would be devastating for South East Asia," he said.

"It is not a solution to break the country up."

At the Sydney introduction of a report on Australian investment in Indonesia, Mr. Downer said it was imperative to Australian interests that Indonesia remained stable and united.

Mr. Downer said it had been a year since the "eye of the storm" in bilateral relations with Indonesia and he looked forward to a more equal relationship with Australia’s neighbor.

"It is a relationship the Australian public will feel more comfortable with . . . a more even relationship," he said.

The report, prepared by the Foreign Affairs Department’s East Asia analytical unit, recognized that Indonesia’s economy was improving. But it stressed Indonesia was still facing major challenges, politically and economically.

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

Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) Website: http://www.pinanius.org 

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