U.S. AMBASSADOR BOYCE MEETS PAPUA PRESIDIUM COUNCIL OFFICIALS

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By R.K. Nugroho

JAYAPURA, Indonesia (April 16, 2002 – The Jakarta Post/Kabar-Irian)---Despite Washington's official stance on opposing Papua independence, visiting U.S. Ambassador Ralph L. Boyce met with officials of the separatist Papua Presidium Council (PDP) and visited the grave of former PDP chairman Theys Hiyo Eluay in the Papua provincial capital of Jayapura on Monday.

Upon arriving at Sentani Airport, Boyce and his entourage were greeted by a group of traditional dancers who brought them to a field leading to Theys' tomb, where he was asked to lay a floral wreath.

The ambassador said he was surprised when the dancers and hundreds of locals "escorted" him and his entourage to Theys' grave because it was not included on the agenda of their two-day visit.

Boyce also joined an unscheduled lunch hosted by PDP Secretary General Thaha Al-Hamid in Pondok Ria Restaurant in the city after meeting with local officials and visiting the state-run Cenderawasih University.

The lunch and closed-door meeting with the PDP officials sparked a protest from local police because it was not included on the ambassador's schedule.

U.S Embassy spokesman Stanley Harsha told the police officers that according to the schedule, the ambassador and his entourage were scheduled to take lunch at 2 p.m. local time, at which time they were free to do their own thing.

PDP officials who asked for anonymity said that during the lunch the suspect investigation of Theys' murder was discussed.

The Presidium was established three years ago by pro-independence Papuan figures who are fighting for the province's independence peacefully.

During the meeting with Irian Jaya Governor Jaap Salossa and military and police officials, Boyce insisted that the U.S. would not support the secessionist movement in the province.

"We do not support the separatist movement, which is trying to separate the province from the Indonesian unitary state," he said.

The ambassador said his visit was aimed at seeing the development program in the province under the special autonomy. He said he also wanted to see the use of the U.S. government's financial assistance to the province, especially in the education and health fields.

Meanwhile, some 300 rebels and their families pledging to resume normal lives, gave themselves up to the local military in the Botom Subdistrict, Jayawijaya Regency.

May. G.T. Situmorang, spokesman for the Trikora Military Command overseeing Irian Jaya, said the rebels and their families were received by Lt. Daru and Lt. Col. Sianturi in a ceremony in the subdistrict.

The Papuan families were reportedly given financial assistance and seedlings to resume their normal life in their own villages in the subdistrict.

KABAR-IRIAN ("Irian News") Websites: http://www.irja.org/index2.shtml and http://www.kabar-irian.com 

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