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By Alan Boyd

SYDNEY, Australia (November 1, 2001 – Asia Times Online)---In late July, while Indonesia was debating whether to give limited autonomy to Irian Jaya, tribal councilor Daan Yairus Ramar was bashed to death by police in Manokwari on suspicion of involvement in rebel activities. His family members were denied access to the body until they had agreed to sign a statement relieving the security forces of any responsibility for his broken condition. At least five other detainees are believed to have died in detention since Jakarta finally initialed the much-awaited autonomy document on October 22, and possibly hundreds remain in custody without being charged.

Little wonder that most of the 2 million Irian Jayans appear skeptical about the pact, which puts the province on the same special status as another volatile separatist region, Aceh.

Effective beginning in January, all Indonesian provinces will benefit from a partial decentralization of fiscal authority and will have the right to establish local governments with limited administrative powers. Responsibility for security, defense, foreign affairs and fiscal and monetary policies will remain with the central government. Governors will be selected locally, but will still answer to Jakarta.

Most significantly, Irian Jaya and Aceh will get a bigger allocation of public revenues. In Irian Jaya's case: 80 percent of royalties from its rich mining and forestry resources, and 70 percent from oil and gas production. Revenues from Irian Jaya's giant Freeport copper and gold mines alone are expected to run into hundreds of millions of dollars a year, a substantial windfall for a province that only recently emerged from the stone ages.

Even the name will change. Irian Jaya, the hated designation adopted by Jakarta, will be dropped in favor of the more commonly used Papua. And the new Papuans will also have their own flag and national anthem.

But Jakarta is seriously mistaken if it expects these gestures to temper separatist demands in Irian Jaya, let alone Aceh. The document was rejected by the pro-independence Papua Presidium Council even before it had been signed. More foreign cash may stay in Irian Jaya instead of being bagged off to Jakarta, but there is a suspicion that most, as in the past, will end up in mega-projects that bring few tangible benefits to local people.

There was no let-up in security activity in Aceh when it gained extended self-rule, and none is likely in Papua, despite pledges by Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri to keep her enforcers on a short leash. For cash handouts are not going to change the mindset of subjugation displayed by Jakarta in its imperious and brutal rule over a population that for 40 years has craved self-determination.

There is nothing in the package to suggest a sense of contrition for the countless acts of atrocity that have been committed in the name of Indonesian unity, never mind a willingness to bring the perpetrators to justice. Vague assurances from distant Jakarta of a more enlightened stance on human rights will not be taken seriously as long as it continues to defy global pressure to enact legislation in support of these pronouncements.

Four human rights courts were to be established under a proclamation drawn up in November last year, but enabling rules are still not in place, and the legal framework for their operation does not meet global standards. Military and police forces are not held accountable for their actions, and few alleged killings are investigated. Armed forces chiefs, implacable in their opposition to federalism, may even be following a different political agenda, and cannot be trusted to safeguard Irian Jaya's autonomy.

Perhaps the greatest indictment of Indonesia's decidedly loose adherence to human rights is the increased activity by security agencies in Jakarta itself. Two years ago there were no recognized political prisoners in detention. Now there are nearly three dozen. Can Sukarnoputri, with her obvious leanings towards some sections of the armed forces, be counted on to make self-rule work in Irian Jaya? Will she be permitted to complete the rights reforms in Jakarta?

Few Irian Jayans evidently think so, and their reservations are shared by independent aid groups and human rights activists, many of whose own staff in Irian Jaya are routinely threatened for committing the compassionate crime of helping the families of victims. The danger is that, in dampening the sense of expectation for real change and real advancement of people's welfare, Jakarta could be creating an even bigger problem. Moderates who had held out for genuine self-rule will now be driven into the rebel camp, convinced that there is little likelihood of another window of opportunity opening for many years to come.

Alarmingly, Irian Jaya is now beginning to follow the same pattern as Timor, moving from passive resistance to scattered guerilla activity and -- in recent months -- to the presence of armed marauding militias programmed by the armed forces. As in Timor, figures have largely ceased to have any meaning. More than 30 percent of Irian Jaya's population has perished in the pursuit of independence since 1963, but Jakarta stopped counting long ago.

For additional reports from the Asia Times, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/Asia Times Online: Oceania.

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