400 PAPUA NEW GUINEA BORDER INCURSIONS BY INDONESIANS REPORTED

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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (December 28, 2000 - The National/PINA Nius Online)---Intelligence reports show more than 400 Indonesian incursions into Papua New Guinea in hot pursuit of West Papua rebels, two high ranking Papua New Guinea Defense Force officers said.

The incidents, over 300 in the north and 100 in the south, have been reported to the government in intelligence briefs for two months, one officer said.

Yet, to date, there is no Papua New Guinea Defense Force presence along the 800-kilometer (480-mile) common border with Indonesia, the officers claimed separately.

The reason: the government has not provided the money to enable it.

Both officers, speaking separately on condition of anonymity, said the government was compromising Papua New Guinea's national security.

A battalion strength contingent force has been prepared from Moem Barracks in Wewak and from 1PIR in Taurama for a month now but unavailability of funds has prevented their deployment.

The soldiers were to have been deployed to six locations in Western province, including Tabubil, Kiunga, Aimbak, Bosset, Obo and Weam and at Yasie, and Green River, Bewani, Schothio and Wutung in West Sepik in the north. The patrol boat Seadler and two Iroquois helicopters have been ordered to the border and put on stand by.

One officer said: "We are letting the people down.

"Right now we have Indonesians swarming all along the border.

"They have air and sea back up and all we can say is that it is an internal matter of the Indonesians.

"What about the border incursions? Are they an internal matter as well? The number (over 400 incursions) I give you are the ones we know about. Remember we have no presence there (on the border). What about the ones we don't know?"

According to the officers, the National Security Council submitted to the Cabinet and received approval in the beginning of December for K 1.5 million (US$ 498,000) to deploy soldiers. But the money had not been received by Christmas.

The Papua New Guinea government has stressed that the situation in Indonesian-ruled West Papua is an internal Indonesian problem.

It has further said that unless there is any evidence of persecution, all border crossers would not been given refugee status and urged their return to their villages.

Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said in Port Moresby during his recent visit that Papua New Guinea and Australia would not adopt any foreign policy stance on the West Papua issue that would lead to violence and atrocities.

Indonesian President Abdurrahman Wahid visited West Papua over Christmas to assess the problem there.

He was reported last week to be speeding up plans for greater autonomy for West Papua to quell the present tension.

Meanwhile, more than 150 West Papuan border crossers, mostly men, have been allowed to camp at Weam Government Station in Western province and more are pouring in every day.

Details are sketchy because of problems with telecommunications at Weam. But a Bensbach villager who arrived in Daru said the border crossers are arriving in small groups of about 10 and the number is increasing every day.

A police squad from Daru was deployed to the area last week following requests from people in the area. They are reportedly living in fear of what is happening at the border and are restricting their gardening and hunting activities.

An officer from the United Nations High Commission for Refugees in Geneva arrived this week in Daru and will travel to Weam on Saturday with a government officer from Waigani to carry out a full assessment of the situation there.

"I have instructions from Waigani to ask the refugees to return to their country. Because they are mostly men, we suspect they have ulterior motives crossing over.

"We will ask them to leave," said the government officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

In Jakarta, the Jakarta Post reported 20 Free Papua Movement (OPM) rebels on Monday attacked a church in Tor Atas district, Jayapura, and took two Indonesian policemen hostage.

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

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

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