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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (January 3, 2000 - Post-Courier/PINA Nius Online)---Papua New Guinea police on border operations said they were horrified recently at the sight of a West Papuan OPM rebel being tortured by Indonesian soldiers.

A member of Lae’s Mobile Squad 13 stationed at the border said the OPM (Free Papua Movement) rebel was forced to swallow cups of hot chili soup, and was repeatedly slashed with a knife.

He said they had never seen anything like that before and were so horrified that they quickly finished eating the noodle soup offered by their Indonesian counterparts (The Brimok) and left.

"It was torture at its worst. It’s something we have never seen before," he said.

Papua New Guinea and Indonesian forces on the Papua New Guinea-Indonesia border talk to each other daily. The Papua New Guineans are occasionally invited by their counterparts to share a few drinks or food.

Papua New Guinea policemen normally hide their weapons when they approach the Indonesians out of respect and courtesy, while the Indonesians are always seen carrying their weapons.

The OPM rebel was being held in a little makeshift cell, the Papua New Guineans said. When he was not answering questions to the liking of the Indonesians, they would slash his body and make him swallow more chili.

When the Post-Courier visited OPM commander Mathias Wenda at his hideout in the jungles of Vanimo on Saturday, we were introduced to a woman who had lost all five fingers on one hand.

Her fingers were allegedly cut off, one at a time, for allegedly being the wife of an OPM commander.

She was lucky to have escaped death, but many others never came out alive from the Indonesian torture camps, the OPM rebels said.

A mother had also died hours before the Post-Courier visited the OPM hideout and was carried in a bush stretcher to another campsite for burial.

She had died from severe malaria, which she contracted in the jungles along the border while escaping from the Indonesians.

Despite all the torture and suffering, Mr. Wenda warned that his men will launch fresh attacks against the Indonesians in the New Year in their continued fight for independence.

Meanwhile, a Vanimo based police officer said he was relieved that the mobile squad from Lae was there to help.

The police officer, who requested anonymity, said the total local police strength in West Sepik was about 30 and they did not have the firepower to contain any major situation.

The officer said the situation was so bad that they had only 18 pump action guns and three AR15 assault rifles.

"With the type of firepower we have, we won’t be able to contain any major situation and the superiors are aware of it, but nothing seems to get done around here," said the officer.

Police morale was low as well, with deteriorating living conditions, especially the single barracks in Vanimo that are still condemned by authorities as a health risk.

On any given night, it is most likely that only one or two policemen do the town rounds.

The officer said complaints to their superiors had fallen on deaf ears.

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



PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (January 3, 2000 - Post-Courier/PINA Nius Online)---Several Papua New Guinea Members of Parliament, led by Deputy Prime Minister Michael Ogio, went to Jayapura in Indonesian-ruled West Papua recently without informing officials of both countries.

Sources in Vanimo told the Post-Courier that the trip amounted to a "total breach of international protocol and security."

It was also claimed that while there, MPs Kennedy Wenge (Nawae) and Kuk Kuli (Anglimp-South Wahgi) and Peoples Democratic Movement Party executive Jamie Maxtone-Graham ran up bills at a holiday resort which they allegedly left without paying.

Mr. Ogio, who is now Acting Prime Minister while Sir Mekere Morauta is on holiday, confirmed the trip yesterday. But he denied their expenses in Vanimo and Jayapura were paid for by a foreign logging company operating in West Sepik.

He said they had changed their own money into Indonesian rupiahs before crossing into the troubled Indonesian-ruled province.

The expenses allegedly included travel costs to and from Vanimo, hired cars in Vanimo, accommodation at the Relat Indah Hotel in Jayapura and personal allowances.

The Relat Indah Hotel is allegedly owned partly by the logging company in Papua New Guinea as well as landowners in West Sepik.

"The PNG intelligence and Foreign Affairs officials on the ground in Vanimo as well as Jayapura were never informed of the trip. And even if it was a private trip, our government officials should have been informed because Mr. Ogio is still the Deputy Prime Minister and he was traveling with PNG Members of Parliament," said the source.

"Who paid for their trip? Were government ILPOCs raised for their hotel accommodation and hire cars in Vanimo? Who paid for their expenses on the other side? And was the Indonesian government aware of the trip? These are the questions that need to be answered."

The source claimed the party of some 20-odd people, including ministerial staff, arrived in Vanimo on November 24. They traveled to the PNG border that afternoon without any official announcement, got into taxis and traveled to Jayapura in Indonesian ruled Irian Jaya (West Papua).

Mr. Ogio denied that there were 20 people in his group or any knowledge of the bills allegedly incurred at Hotel Murano on Biak Island.

The Hotel Murano management had called the PNG Consulate in Jayapura for payment of the claimed debt of two million rupiah (about K 7000). But it was informed that the consulate was not aware of the trip.

The PNG Consulate in Jayapura refused to comment when contacted yesterday morning. It is not clear if the bills have been settled.

Mr. Maxtone-Graham is currently on holiday, while Mr. Kuli and Mr. Wenge could not be reached for comments.

Mr. Ogio said those on the trip to Jayapura also included Alfred Pogo (Finschhafen MP), Mathew Gubag (Sumkar), Puri Ruing (Dei) and Robert Sakias (Telefomin).

He said the PDM faction had gone to Vanimo at the invitation of Rural Development Minister and Nuku MP Andrew Kumbakor. Their aim was to get away from all the political horse-trading following the failed attempt in Parliament to adjourn the vote on the integrity bill.

"I personally thought it was a private trip, so I didn’t think I should let them know (officials from both countries) . . . In fact, we traveled to Jayapura with our foreign officials," he said.

Mr. Ogio and his group traveled across the border on the same afternoon that they arrived in Vanimo.

"They were telling us about how cheap the prices for goods on the other side were, so we felt sweet and said ‘OK, let’s go.’ It was a private trip," he said.

The source said they had obtained visas for three days only at the Indonesian Consulate in Vanimo. And that soon after Mr. Sakias announced, during a dinner hosted by the Relat group in Jayapura, that Mr. Ogio would be there for three days, the Prime Minister¹s office called with directions for him to return to PNG at sunrise.

Mr. Ogio confirmed returning the next day, but denied that the Prime Minister¹s office had directed his return.

"I came back on my own wish. I did not get any call from the Prime Minister," he said.

The source said Mr. Maxtone-Graham, Mr. Wenge and Mr. Kuli’s three-day visa had expired and, under the immigration laws, they either had to return to Vanimo to get new visas or get an extension in Indonesia.

They decided to stay on. They allegedly convinced an Indonesian Foreign Affairs official to stamp their passports at 8:00 p.m., after the office had closed for the day’s business, so they could travel to the holiday resort on Biak.

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: 

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