PNG ORDERS CUT IN FOOD FOR WEST PAPUAN REFUGEES

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By Winis Map

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (July 28, 2001 - The Independent/PINA Nius Online)---Government authorities have instructed that distribution of food to a West Papuan refugee camp at the edge of Vanimo town in Papua New Guinea must be restricted.

Father Tommy Thomas, of the Catholic Church in Vanimo, said Chris Kati, an officer from the Provincial Affairs Department, had told them to restrict rice to one kilogram per person per week.

There have been claims the Papua New Guinea government is working with the Indonesians to try to get the people to return to West Papua, ruled by the Indonesians as the province of Irian Jaya.

Hundreds of West Papuans, mainly women and children, fled to across the border to Papua New Guinea last November amidst clashes between Indonesian security forces and the pro-independence Free Papua Movement.

Father Tommy said the church will only apply the restriction to the limited rations provided by the government for the people who fled across the border.

He said his church has taken the full responsibility of feeding the West Papuan border crossers. The government has provided little assistance since the border crossers were moved from the Wutung border post to Vanimo in December last year.

Father Tommy said the current camp lacks proper water supply and the people are still using the blue canvas canopy supplied by the church and other agencies.

The Catholic Church is pushing for the relocation of the camp to the old refugee site at the Black Water, some 15 kilometers (9 miles) southeast of Vanimo town. This is because there is enough land there to permit the border crossers to make their gardens and get fresh water from nearby creeks.

Demands for independence have been mounting in West Papua.

Human rights activists accuse Indonesian security forces of human rights abuses and say thousands of people have died in years of fighting.

The resource-rich territory, which borders Papua New Guinea, was a Dutch colony. But in the 1960s the Indonesians, who had won their own independence from Dutch colonial rule, began fighting to take control of West Papua from the Dutch.

The province was officially taken over by the Indonesians following a controversial 1969 referendum after the departure of the Dutch. Pro-independence West Papuans call the referendum a sham and say only a small number of men who were intimidated by the Indonesians were allowed to take part.

Indonesia has since encouraged migration to West Papua by mainly Muslim Asian settlers from its main islands. Indigenous West Papuans are mainly Melanesian and Christian.

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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