DIPLOMACY NEEDED TO DISARM PAPUA SEPARATISTS IN PNG

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JAKARTA, Indonesian (January 5, 2001 - Indonesian Observer/Kabar-Irian)---Local government officials in Irian Jaya (West Papua), in cooperation with the Foreign Affairs Ministry, are planning to use diplomatic efforts to disarm separatist rebels hiding across the border in Papua New Guinea (PNG).

Irian Jaya Police Chief Inspector General F. Soemardi yesterday said the government may ask PNG authorities to conduct sweeping operations on their side of the border and arrest any Indonesians found in possession of firearms or ammunition.

He said several West Papua separatists have stolen weapons from the Indonesian police and military, and then fled across the border into PNG.

"In a raid on December 7, separatists were able to kill three police from Abepura and seized some rifles from them," he was quoted as saying by Antara.

"Of course we can’t pursue them by entering the foreign country because such action could be regarded as a form of invasion, which would be a violation of international law."

Soemardi said Indonesia will probably advise PNG police to conduct more regular patrols along the north-south border of the two countries.

He said murdering Indonesian military and police officials and stealing their weapons are quite serious crimes, but even worse is the crime of attempting to make Irian Jaya secede from Indonesia.

Soemardi did not refer to the separatists as members of the pro-independence Papua Presidium Council or its Task Force, but instead called them members of the Free Papua Movement (OPM) or security disturbance groups (GPK).

He issued a stern warning to the separatists who have been fighting a low-level battle for independence since the 1960s. "The Indonesian police and military certainly will not tolerate the OPM’s declaration of an independent state," he said.

But Soemardi claimed that because it’s difficult to pursue the rebels on foreign soil, local police and military personnel will welcome them wholeheartedly, forget their "evil" deeds and treat them as other citizens, if they decide to return to Irian Jaya.

Human rights activists say thousands of people have died in years of fighting between Indonesian security forces and rebels in Irian Jaya. Many of the province’s 2 million people still live a near-Stone Age existence in the mountainous interior. The tribesmen traditionally use poison arrows and spears in their conflicts.

After the Dutch started to pull out of their colonial territory in the early 1960s, the U.S. "worried about its waning influence in Indonesia due to an increase in communist activities" belatedly pressured the Netherlands to negotiate with Indonesia to find a solution to the West Papua problem.

In 1962, the Dutch agreed to hand over the territory to the United Nations, who then, a year later, gave the region to Indonesia, with an understanding that by the end of the decade the West Papuan people would have a chance to vote on whether they wanted to remain part of Indonesia.

Pro-independence activists say that the so-called "act of free choice" in 1969 was a sham. All 1,022 village chiefs supposedly decided to remain part of Indonesia, allegedly because they had been threatened.

Most of the profits from Irian Jaya’s valuable natural resources go to the U.S. and Jakarta, while analysts claim the local population is in danger of being outnumbered by settlers from Java and other densely populated Indonesian islands.

President Abdurrahman Wahid, who has pledged to end the rebel conflict, is facing a tough battle in placating separatists and hard-line elements of the military.

KABAR-IRIAN ("Irian News") Websites: http://www.irja.org/index2.shtml and http://www.kabar-irian.com 

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