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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (December 29, 2000 - Post-Courier/Independent/PINA Nius Online)---Indiscriminate firing of weapons by Indonesian soldiers on their side of the border has forced Papua New Guinea villagers to follow a rigid timetable for gardening.

The villagers, who have traditional ties with people across the border, have food gardens about 10 kilometers (6 miles) inside Indonesia-ruled West Papua. They are now allowed to visit them on Tuesday, Thursday and Friday only.

They have to give their names to Indonesian troops manning the border and cross their names off on return.

Police border operation commander Joseph Poma said the villagers had to leave early and return by 3:00 p.m.

"By the end of the day, the Indonesians are satisfied that 10 people went across and 10 people came back," he said.

He said 20 men from the Lae mobile squad were in the area. Their role is to protect PNG citizens and property along the border.

He said the PNG government’s stand is that the problem with OPM (Free Papua Movement) rebels is an internal matter for Indonesia and the policemen have been informed of that.

So far no clashes or incidents between OPM rebels and Indonesian troops have occurred on the Papua New Guinea side of the border, he said.

Papua New Guineans, especially tribal border crossers at Wutung in West Sepik Province, are also still traveling to Jayapura in Indonesia despite all the trouble on the border.

The land border through Wutung is closed but most of these people are crossing by boat, especially to shop in Jayapura.

Just before Christmas, Indonesia police escorted 104 Wutung crossers all the way to Jayapura in 10 trucks for shopping and back again.

The trip was organized by Bevani/Wutung/Onei Local Level Government head Patrick Muliale.

Mr. Muliale thanked the Indonesians for their help and understanding and the PNG quarantine and customs officials as well.

He said two people from each family were picked to go on the shopping trip and bring gifts for the whole family for a good Christmas.

"The people have the money but they have no access to Jayapura so the trip was a good Christmas present," he said.

"The people purchased rice, sugar and oil from Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand and Malaysia from the other side at very cheap prices."

Traditional border crossers such as the Wutung villagers do not need visas to go on the other side. They only have to produce their Traditional Border Crosser cards to immigration officials on either side.

But the highway to Jayapura was closed after the killing of five Javanese loggers by OPM rebels in early December, Mr. Muliale said.

The chainsaw rip-logging experts were Indonesians employed by Wutung villagers to log the forest on the Indonesian side of the border.

They were also imparting their expertise to Wutung villagers under a bilateral agreement between PNG and Indonesia.

Mr. Muliale said, "As the leader I feel the Wutung people were partly responsible because the Javanese were working for our people; so the Javanese have the right to claim compensation."

He said so far the families of the dead men had made no demands.

Mr. Muliale said the border would hopefully be opened by February following a border liaison officers meeting between PNG and Indonesia.

Meanwhile, the delay by the Papua New Guinea government in deciding the status of the West Papua border crossers is now giving more burdens to the Catholic Church, which is feeding the visitors.

The 330 West Papuans at Holy Cross Primary School in Vanimo are still classified as border crossers and not refugees. They fled to Papua New Guinea as the Indonesians arrested pro-independence West Papuan leaders and clashes between Indonesian forces and West Papuans increased.

The people are given two rations a day. They have been divided into 26 groups and each group, which averages about seven persons, is given three packets of rice and one or two tins of fish.

The National Security Advisory Committee (NSAC) was supposed to meet and decide the status of the crossers last week but the proposed meeting did not take place.

The majority of the border crossers are from the Wamena district in the Central Highlands of West Papua. These people were living at Abe, Arso, Waina, Santei and Yapis before they fled to PNG.

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

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

Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) Website: 

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