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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (May 22, 2001 – The Independent)--Passengers traveling by sea and road from Papua New Guinea to Indonesian West Papua have complained of harassment by Indonesian security forces. They are calling on the governments of Papua New Guinea and Indonesia to look into the allegations.

Meanwhile, the pro-independence Papua Council Presidium praised comments by Pacific Islands Forum chairperson Teburoro Tito on West Papua. It again urged that the West Papuans be given observer status at the Pacific Islands Forum.

Reports from Vanimo confirmed that travelers using motorized boats have been stopped by Indonesian security personnel in the open seas between Jayapura and Wutung and their personal belongings searched.

A reliable source told The Independent that the security officers normally conduct the searches to find vanilla. He said the Indonesian security officers have confiscated vanilla beans from Papua New Guinea traders, who travel across the border to Jayapura to sell them.

The Indonesian security officers are said to go after vanilla beans only.

One source described the actions of the Indonesian security officers as "official pirates."

The Independent understands that the market for vanilla has improved dramatically recently. The price for vanilla beans late last year and early this year range from K 150 (US$ 51.15) to K 200 (US$ 68.20) per kilogram (2.2 pounds).

However, the price has now increased to about K 300 (US$ 102.30) to K 400 (US$ 136.40) per kilogram.

Most of the vanilla traders do not have proper export licenses to sell their produce, and are therefore illegally selling the vanilla in Jayapura.

The majority of the traders come from East Sepik province, which neighbors West Papua (Irian Jaya).

Meanwhile, Franzalbert Joku, International Affairs Moderator for the Papua Council Presidium, the coordinating body of the West Papuan independence movement, formally thanked Forum chairperson Kiribati President Teburoro Tito for his "visionary and courageous" statement.

Mr. Joku said: "The public stand you have taken is especially significant at a time when leaders of certain larger nations in the region and, indeed, the world, shamelessly side with the oppressor or pretend that the two million Melanesians of West Papua do not exist."

President Tito, in his capacity as Forum chairperson, said that the Forum could assist in opening the channels of dialogue between West Papuans and the Jakarta government, having decided to include Indonesia as a post Forum dialogue partner. He said this decision is a sign of increasing support within the Forum of the West Papuan cause for independence.

Mr. Joku said the Papua Council Presidium agrees and "welcomes this decision as it is tirelessly looking for ways to engage Indonesia in a direct and productive dialogue using international processes. The Council also asks the Forum countries to support a formal resolution recognizing West Papua's right to self determination and to allow the Council observer status at the Forum."

In a letter to President Tito, Mr. Joku said that allowing West Papua observer status would complete the political equation. It would help set the stage for a productive dialogue, using the Forum mechanism to help negotiate a political settlement to the West Papuan dispute, he said

Mr. Joku said President Tito's "forthright" views on West Papua have drawn more than just a casual interest in Jakarta. He said since learning of the Forum chairperson's statement, the Indonesian Foreign Ministry has held a series of high-level meetings and has sent urgent dispatches to all its international embassies. He said it is alerting them of the stand being taken in the Pacific region and calling for close cooperation in putting together a strong delegation for the August Forum in Nauru.

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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