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JAKARTA, Indonesia (December 17-24, 2000 – Tempo Magazine/Kabar-Irian)---After the controversial arrest of several pro-independence leaders, the calls for independence in West Papua will only get stronger.

Jakarta really seems at a loss as to how to deal with West Papua’s calls for independence. Indonesia’s leaders cannot get their act together on the issue. Now comes the controversial arrest of Theys Hiyo Eluay, chairman of the pro-independence Papuan Presidium, carried out despite pleas from President Abdurrahman Wahid not to take him in.

Police in West Papua ignored Wahid’s call to delay the arrest of Theys. The pro-independence leader now stands accused of treason. Police argued that delaying the arrests of Theys and four other members of the council would only make the situation worse. "If they were released, they would just provoke more subversive behavior towards the government," said provincial police chief Brig. Gen. Sylvanus Wenas.

Theys and company were mostly arrested in the days before a December 1 anniversary of a failed 1961 "declaration of independence," made a few months before the territory was handed to Indonesia. The "treasonable" acts in question included a declaration concerning Papua’s independence made on November 12 last year and a mass meeting in Papua earlier this year. Fervor for independence has reached fever pitch in the province.

Wahid was unhappy with the arrest. After Friday prayers two weeks ago in his home Jakarta suburb of Ciganjur, the president called for Theys’ immediate release before December 5.

The news of Theys’ possible release spread like wildfire. Dozens of reporters flocked the provincial police headquarters in Jayapura where he was detained. There they waited for his release. One of the suspects’ lawyers, Anum Siregar, was positive his clients would be freed. "The official release order is being taken care of," Anum told Kristian Ansaka of TEMPO.

Was there a release? No. It did not happen. Theys and friends are still safely in jail. It is unclear why. On December 8, Wahid noted that Theys had still not been released. The president argued that holding him would invite attacks from much-needed overseas sympathizers and also offend Papuans.

There is word that some ministers are against the move. There is even a rumor saying that influential chief security minister Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, a retired general, will quit the cabinet if ever the president insists on releasing the five. Yudhoyono quickly denied that rumor when questioned by TEMPO about it.

Yet, the decision to keep Theys in jail was taken at a special cabinet meeting led by Yudhoyono. "The Indonesian police chief has been instructed to speed the investigation, in order to decide further what steps need to be taken," Yudhoyono said after the meeting.

Soon the president’s enemies among the legislators were putting their oar in. "The president must not interfere with the work of the police if they don’t break any rules," said Akbar Tandjung, speaker of the House of Representatives (DPR).

But hang on a minute. Did or did not Wahid ask for Theys to be released? Presidential spokesman Wimar Witoelar says no, the president never asked for Theys’ release. "The truth is, Gus Dur said if Theys’ arrest was necessary, then the police had to arrest him. But if the arrest was unnecessary, the police had to let him go," said Wimar. Oh.

This is not the first time Wahid has found himself in hot water over Papua. The DPR has also criticized the president’s offer to change the provincial name from Irian Jaya to the indigenous word Papua. Legislators have grown anxious about his tolerance for the separatist Morning Star flag and his general sympathy for the separatists. Among other things, Wahid helped finance the Papuan Congress led by Theys and colleagues back in June, which turned into a pro-independence party.

And legislators are not alone. Various nationalists are upset too, particularly the generals. They fear national disintegration will result. Facing similar pressures in Riau and Aceh, the generals have shown a more determined attitude. They have even got up a bit of their old enthusiasm for oppressive approaches towards separatist movements.

But will this solve the problem? Surely not. Violence will not heal the deep wounds rooted in Papua, Aceh or in any other oppressed part of Indonesia. The president’s approaches were perhaps just too personal. They may have been as dangerous as oppression since there was no concept of comprehensive dialog. Now, everybody is confused, from government officials to the Papuans in general. And eventually, it will only lead to more violence.

The situation in Papua is getting worse. Lurking in the background are the Free Papua Movement (OPM) rebels led by Mathias Wenda. Pro-independence forces have carried out a number of attacks since December 1. After an attack on December 7 in Abepura, just outside Jayapura, there was another incident at Skow village in Muaratami, near the Papua New Guinea border. Two civilians were killed. Last Monday Theys Eluay’s hometown of Sentani, some 48 kilometers (28.2 miles) from Jayapura, was also the scene of violence. No one was killed, luckily.

Solutions are badly needed before things get badly out of control. Whatever they turn out to be, a comprehensive dialog must be at the top of the list.

Johan Budi S.P., Rian Suryalibrata and Wenseslaus Manggut (Jayapura)/EW/CM

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JAYAPURA, Indonesia (December 18, 2000 – ANTARA/Kabar-Irian)---Jayapura’s Bishop, Msgr. Jack Mote, said Monday it is not yet time to impose a military or civil emergency in Indonesia’s Irian Jaya province as the local people have not acted against the government.

The people of Irian Jaya only demand justice and truth because they have not enjoyed the results of development for the past 38 years, thus they are considering seceding from Indonesia, Mote told newsmen here.

He said the struggle of the Irianese is different from that of the Acehnese, who use firearms to confront the military.

The Irianese, he said, only rely on the peaceful approach to achieve the goals of their struggle.

On the deployment of more troops to the province, Mote said the need for the move is exaggerated.

Concerning a number of incidents in several areas in Irian Jaya, which had claimed several lives, Mote said the incidents occurred because the security personnel had imposed pressure on the people without any dialog.

He noted that even before December 1, the unrecognized Irian Jaya independence date, several leaders of the Papua Council Presidium were questioned and incarcerated.

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