admin's picture

JAKARTA, Indonesia (August 13, 2001 - AFP/Kabar-Irian)---Australia has urged fellow members of the Pacific Islands Forum not to debate independence for Indonesia's Irian Jaya province at its annual meeting this week, an Indonesian MP said Monday.

This "positive" development indicated a change of heart of the Australian government, which had previously supported independence for Irian Jaya to the annoyance of Jakarta, said Yasril Ananta Baharuddin, Chairman of Parliament's Defense and Security Commission.

It now appeared that it was Australia's non-government organizations (NGOs) rather than its government, which supported the independence movement in the province, on New Guinea Island, he said.

"We consider that Australia's pressure on the Forum not to discuss independence for Irian Jaya was very positive and we hope that attitude can be extended to the level of NGOs," he said after legislators met visiting Australian Prime Minister John Howard.

The 16-nation Pacific Islands Forum holds its annual summit meeting Thursday in Nauru, the world's smallest republic.

During his visit Howard expressed support for Indonesia's territorial integrity in the face of growing separatist unrest in Aceh and Irian Jaya.

He said both countries had agreed to look to the future rather than dwell on past disputes.

The two nations fell out over Australia's perceived support for East Timor's vote in August 1999 to split from Indonesia. Jakarta was also upset by Australia's leadership of a peacekeeping force there following a campaign of terror by Indonesian-backed militias.

Baharuddin, previously one of the most vocal opponents of Australian policy, said Howard's attitude had changed.

"We see a change in (the attitude of) their government, especially Howard and the foreign minister and the new ambassador," he told reporters.

"Before, the only problem was the prime minister who made statements that intervened in Indonesia's affairs. Now we're facing the future together with a positive attitude; before it was the negative attitude from Howard that made us angry."

Baharuddin added: "I think Australia is aware that if it wants to live peacefully as our neighbor it should no longer think of itself as a European or American country in Asia."

He added: "It is our (Parliament's) desire to forget the past and make a better future but they must not repeat the things that caused problems in the past."

Sabam Sirait, another of the MPs who met Howard, said he suggested sharing profits from Timor Sea oil not just between East Timor and Australia but also with West Timor on behalf of Indonesia.

"I asked Howard if it was possible for West Timor to get a bit of the profit," Sirait added, without specifying Howard's response.

KABAR-IRIAN ("Irian News") Websites:  and 

Rate this article: 
Average: 2 (1 vote)

Add new comment