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JAKARTA, Indonesia (December 19, 2001 - (AP/APOL)---Indonesia's army commander has indicated for the first time that rogue troops may have killed a separatist politician in Irian Jaya province last month.

"If it is one of my men who did it, (then) this is an action without any orders," General Endriartono Sutarto said after meeting President Megawati Sukarnoputri on Wednesday.

Theys Eluay was kidnapped and murdered on Nov. 10 near the provincial capital, Jayapura. He was on his way home after having dinner with senior army officers.

His family and rights activists in the region have claimed he was killed by a military death squad. The government has ordered the security forces to launch an inquiry despite calls by human rights groups for an independent probe.

Sutarto said Megawati had ordered that the killers of Eluay be found immediately. "I promise not to cover up anything," he said.

The state-sponsored National Commission on Human Rights has said there were indications that the army's Kopassus special forces group may have been involved in Eluay's death. The U.S.-trained unit has long been accused of human rights crimes and of operating death squads in Irian Jaya and elsewhere in Indonesia.

In the past, Sutarto and other army commanders have vehemently denied any link to Eluay's death.

Separatists in Irian Jaya, also known as Papua, have fought a low-level insurgency since the mid-1960s, when the former Dutch colony was forcibly taken over by Indonesia. Tens of thousands of people have been killed.

Eluay, a charismatic and popular leader, wasn't actively involved in the armed struggle and favored peaceful negotiations with Jakarta.

Megawati is scheduled to visit the region later this week to attend Christmas celebrations with the mainly Christian population.

She will also use the trip, her first since becoming president in July, to urge the province to accept recently passed laws that grant it more autonomy and a greater share of resource revenues.

The government hopes the new laws will lessen calls for independence in the resource-rich region on the western half of New Guinea Island.

Indonesia formally annexed Irian Jaya in 1969 after a U.N.-sanctioned ballot of tribal leaders. Independence activists and former top officials of the world body said the process was a sham.



JAKARTA, Indonesia (December 19, 2001 – Reuters/TAPOL)---Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri urged security officials Wednesday to quickly find out who is behind last month's murder of a pro-independence chief in the remote eastern province of Papua.

Megawati made the call just days before she is due to fly to the restive province, where the pro-independence movement and ordinary Papuans are likely to voice their displeasure at the lack of progress in the case.

Theys Eluay was killed on Nov. 11, fuelling demands for independence in the resource-rich province of two million people.

"(She) wants Theys Eluay's case immediately unraveled and the perpetrator found. I promise not to hide anything...or anyone involved, even if they're my men," army chief General Endriartono Sutarto told reporters after meeting Megawati.

The military has come under the spotlight because Eluay was found dead after having dinner with the local head of the feared Kopassus special forces in Papua. As an institution, the military has denied being involved in the murder.

Megawati's visit on Saturday is primarily aimed at publicizing a special autonomy package for Papua that has been passed by Parliament but already rejected by the Papua Presidium Council that Eluay chaired.

Several hundred students have also been protesting in the local capital of Jayapura this week over the package, demanding a referendum on independence instead. Under the package, local authorities get more control over the province's wealth.

It will be Megawati's first trip to the largely Christian province since becoming president of mainly Muslim Indonesia in July. Jayapura is 3,700 kilometers (2,300 miles) east of Jakarta.

She has made resolving independence demands in Papua and Aceh province on Sumatra island key planks of her rule, but done little to address what some analysts see as the key obstacle to reconciliation -- thorough probes into years of human rights abuses and a delay in scaling back military activities.

Megawati has firmly ruled out independence for Papua or Aceh.

Papua was incorporated into Indonesia in 1963 after heavy diplomatic pressure on the former colonial power, the Netherlands.

In 1969, a U.N.-run poll was held among local leaders, including Eluay, which backed Indonesian rule but this has long been criticized as unfair.

Paul Barber TAPOL, the Indonesia Human Rights Campaign 25 Plovers Way, Alton Hampshire GU34 2JJ Tel/Fax: 01420 80153 Email:  Internet: 

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