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JAKARTA, Indonesia (June 27, 2001 - The Jakarta Post/Kabar-Irian)---The government turned down on Tuesday the Papuan Presidium Council's demand for a self-determination referendum in Irian Jaya, saying the troubled province remains part of Indonesia.

Minister of Defense Mahfud M.D. said the government would instead continue to encourage all sides, including the Irianese people, to seek a comprehensive solution to all problems related to the easternmost province.

"It is better not to further consider the demand. Irian Jaya will remain part of the country forever," he said.

The Papuan Presidium Council called on Jakarta over the weekend to allow people in the mineral rich province to hold a referendum to determine their future.

Mahfud underlined the government would never offer the province options to secede from Indonesia or to have full autonomy because, according to the Constitution, the right is in the hands of the People's Consultative Assembly.

"I think it is better for the people of Irian Jaya to concentrate more on development in the province then mounting demands for a referendum or full autonomy. We can only approve special autonomy," Mahfud remarked.

Meanwhile, Coordinating Minister for Political, Social and Security Affairs Agum Gumelar called on the House of Representatives to complete the deliberations of the Irian Jayan special autonomy bill as soon as possible to accelerate economic development in the province.

"The House and the Irian Jaya provincial administration should take the middle way, instead of defending their own stand, in preparing legislation, to help calm down the animosity and tension between the central government and the province," he said, while receiving a delegation from Irian Jaya here on Tuesday.

The delegation consisted of Irian Jaya deputy governor Constant Karma, an assistant to the governor Anthon Ririhena and members of the team who proposed the counter draft law on special autonomy for the province.

The proposed bill has won political support from at least 60 legislators and several factions of the House though has met opposition from the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI Perjuangan) and the Indonesian Military as it is considered to be going against the Constitution and the principles of the unitary state.

Agum said both the government and the House should take the bill proposed by the team into consideration in deliberating the government-sponsored bill prepared by the Ministry of Home Affairs and Regional Autonomy.

"Besides containing Irian Jaya's uniqueness and accommodating the Irianese people's aspirations, the former bill also maintains the province's status as part of the unitary state of Indonesia.

"The central government should not force the Irianese people to accept the government-sponsored bill because special autonomy should accommodate the basic values and unique characteristics of the Irianese people. Both the House and government should be flexible in combining the two bills."

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