PAPUANS STILL WAIT FOR MEGAWATI TO PERSONALLY HAND OVER AUTONOMY

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JAYAPURA, Papua, Indonesia (January 2, 2002 – Agence France-Presse/Joyo Indonesian News/TAPOL)---The 2.1 million residents of Indonesia's newly named easternmost province of Papua are in theory enjoying their new autonomy, although some officials are confused as to when it takes effect.

Special autonomy laws officially took effect on January 1, allowing the Jakarta-imposed name of Irian Jaya to be discarded for the preferred local name.

Most significantly the laws allow the province to keep up to 80 percent of revenue generated by mining there, redressing long-held grievances over the majority of revenue disappearing into Jakarta coffers.

"The new autonomy took effect on New Year's Day," Henke Wonotiri, secretary to provincial governor Yacobus Salossa, told AFP by phone from the capital, Jayapura.

But officials at the local government offices were less certain, confused by President Megawati Sukarnoputri's failure to visit the province on December 22 as planned to symbolically hand over the autonomy laws.

"In a de jure sense, they are now in effect. But in a de facto sense, not yet, because we are still waiting for President Megawati to hand over the law," public affairs officer Yohannes Yaban told AFP by phone.

"We still haven't been informed when she will hand them over," Johannes said.

"We are all still waiting, although we know in theory we have autonomy now because Mrs. Megawati signed the laws before Christmas."

Wonotiri was confident Megawati would make the trip to Papua eventually.

"What's clear is the president will come, but the exact date is uncertain," he said.

Megawati returned to Jakarta late on Tuesday after a five-day New Year holiday on the resort island of Bali.

Yaban said that while legally the new name Papua applied, it had not yet been "socialized," meaning there had been no campaign to inform the public of the new name.

"In meetings and dialogues we're using the term Papua but in formal letters, not yet," he said.

The provincial police were still calling themselves Irian Jaya police on Tuesday.

"I don't know yet whether autonomy has taken effect. We're still using the name Irian Jaya until we're informed otherwise," provincial police spokesman Janner Pasaribu told AFP by phone.

"If the laws have already been legitimized, then we will start calling ourselves the Papua police, but as far as I know they haven't yet."

Jakarta has granted broad autonomy to the province to appease widespread demands for independence from Indonesia, whose sovereignty over Papua was confirmed in 1969 in a now-disputed United Nations-sponsored plebiscite.

Arbitrary killings, torture and kidnappings by soldiers and police, Jakarta's perceived exploitation of Papua's rich mineral and energy reserves and the subjugation of the indigenous Melanesian population to non-Papuans have spurned deep resentment of the central government.

Melanesians account for some 58 percent of Papua's 2.1 million residents, based on data from a 2000 census, the head of the local statistics office, Win Rizal, told AFP.

Hard line independence fighters began waging a guerilla campaign within years of the Indonesian military's 1963 invasion of the former Dutch colony, as the Dutch departed.

Paul Barber TAPOL, the Indonesia Human Rights Campaign 25 Plovers Way, Alton Hampshire GU34 2JJ Tel/Fax: 01420 80153 Email: plovers@gn.apc.org  Internet: www.gn.apc.org/tapol 

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