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SYDNEY, Australia (July 30, 2001 – Sydney Morning Herald/PINA Nius Online)---Former newspaper editor Franzalbert Joku is preparing to go to the Pacific Islands Forum meeting in Nauru to again plead for self determination for his fellow West Papuans.

Mr. Joku, now spokesman for the Papua Presidium, has called for Australia especially to abandon support for Indonesia's territorial integrity, the Sydney Morning Herald reported.

"Respecting the territorial integrity of Indonesia comes at the cost of denying two million Papuans," Mr. Joku told the newspaper.

Mr. Joku said that the tragedies of the former Indonesian-occupied territory of East Timor could be repeated in West Papua, which the Indonesians rule as Irian Jaya.

Pro-Jakarta militias have been formed, and one of the men behind the military tactics in East Timor, Major General Mahidin Simbolon, is the region's new military commander, he said.

Mr. Joku and his West Papuan colleagues scored a major breakthrough last year when through help from Nauru and Vanuatu they were able to attend the Forum meeting in Kiribati. Through their lobbying and the support from countries like Nauru and Vanuatu they were able to get West Papua mentioned in the Forum communiqué.

Indonesia quickly applied for status as a post-Forum dialogue partner, and both West Papuan and Indonesian representatives will now be in Nauru in three weeks.

The Sydney Morning Herald said with Megawati Sukarnoputri's ascension to power in Jakarta, Mr. Joku is a worried man. Police and troops had murdered more than 100 independence supporters in the past year, he said, and as attitudes on both sides harden the toll is certain to grow.

"We are concerned because her public utterances indicate she will take a hard line against independence movements in West Papua and Aceh," Mr. Joku told the Sydney Morning Herald.

Mr. Joku is calling for a United Nations investigation into human rights abuses in West Papua, a call backed by the churches.

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

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.

In Papua New Guinea, the government officially ignores the presence of the latest "border crossers," despite widespread public sympathy, the Sydney Morning Herald said.

The local national MP and former Cabinet minister Micah Wes, told the Sydney Morning Herald: "We see it as one Papua; PNG and Papua should be one island; we have the same customs."

He concedes Papua New Guinea cannot afford to confront the military might of Indonesia, or recognize the border crossers' plight. Only the Catholic Church is providing what little it can for them.

For additional reports from The Sydney Morning Herald, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/Sydney (Australia) Morning Herald.

Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) Website: 

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