WEST PAPUA NOT JUST INTERNAL PROBLEM

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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (January 12, 2001 - The Independent/PINA Nius Online)---A West Papuan human rights activist has called on Australia and Papua New Guinea to be more sensitive about the political struggle in his homeland.

Sem Yaru, coordinator of a human rights group in the Indonesian-ruled province's capital, Jayapura, said the PNG and Australian view that West Papua is an "internal problem" for Indonesia is totally misleading.

Mr. Yaru of HAM (Hak Asasi West Papua) said: "The level of brutality inflicted by Indonesian military and police forces on indigenous people of West Papua over more than 30 years of Indonesian reign is surely not an internal problem."

Mr. Yaru said thousands of West Irianese (West Papuans) have been brutally tortured and most have died as a result of the inhumane behavior of Indonesian security forces.

The Indonesians, in their pursuit of pro-independence freedom fighters, have indiscriminately killed innocent civilians, he said.

Mr. Yaru said: "The high degree of violation of human rights by Jakarta-sponsored security forces surely needs international attention. PNG and Australia cannot shy away from the problem and pretend that everything is okay and it is just a minor issue that Indonesia can resolve within its jurisdictions."

He expressed disappointment at statements by Australian Foreign Affairs Minister Alexander Downer that his country will not support the West Papuan independence movement.

Mr. Downer, during his official visit to Papua New Guinea last December, claimed that to provide this support will only "encourage a violent independent struggle, which will, of course, cause enormous bloodshed."

But the scenario on the ground is the total opposite, according to Mr. Yaru.

He said more bloodshed is expected if the West Papuan issue is left for Indonesia to sort out.

He said if Australia, Papua New Guinea or other international groups like the United Nations can offer their support, a more peaceful resolution can be achieved and possibly independence.

Meanwhile, border crossers from West Papua living at the Holy Cross Community School in Vanimo, near the border, will be moved out. The West Papuans fled across the border amidst growing violence after Indonesian police arrested West Papuan pro-independence leaders.

An area near the school has been allocated to resettle them. The Sandaun administration has decided to move them out of the school, which has been their temporary shelter for the past two months, in preparation for the school year, which starts in about a week.

Acting Administrator Maran Nataleo said the West Papuans will not be moved to the Black Wara refugee camp. His administration had earlier planned to move the people to Black Wara, which was once a major refugee camp in the early 1980s. They have now opted to relocate them near the town.

The West Papuans have not been given refugee status by the PNG government despite a submission made by the Sandaun administration. The only response was the acknowledgement letter.

Mr. Nataleo said the number of border crossers has now increased to more than 400 after some crossed over last week. He said the Catholic Church in Vanimo is still feeding and caring for the basic needs of the people while the government has offered nothing.

A Papua New Guinea source said that the national government is not expecting a large scale influx of West Papuan border crossers as in 1984.

The source said that the Papua Presidium - which is organizing the push for West Papuan independence - does not want West Papuans to come into Papua New Guinea. This is because it needs every West Papuan to remain in their own country in order to campaign for independence.

In other developments:

* The Papua New Guinea Defence Force has suspended one of its intelligence officers based in Vanimo.

The suspension followed a report The Independent carried last week alleging Papua New Guinea intelligence officers based in Vanimo were selling information to Indonesian authorities.

* A Papua New Guinea citizen from Boset village in Western province was shot and wounded in the leg when Indonesian police dispersed a riot in the West Papuan town of Merauke last month, it has been confirmed.

Earlier reports said he was among those shot dead when Indonesian police broke up a West Papuan separatist flag raising ceremony. Seven people were killed by the Indonesian police.

* A group of West Papuans who crossed over into Western province at Weam has been sent back to West Papua. The group of 31 people crossed over at Weam just after the incident at Merauke.

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: http://www.pinanius.org 

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