PAPUA GOVERNOR ASKS MEGAWATI TO NAME THEYS' KILLERS

JAKARTA, Indonesia (April 20, 2002 – Jakarta Post/PINA Nius Online)---Papua Governor Jaap Salossa has urged Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri to name the soldiers charged with murdering pro-independence leader Theys Hiyo Eluay.

Such an announcement is important to let the people know who is behind the suspects, the Jakarta Post newspaper quoted him as saying in Jayapura, the Papua provincial capital:

"Even though there are now three suspects, we expect this number to increase.... because according to eyewitnesses many other people were involved in the bloody case," Salossa said.

The Indonesian Military (TNI) announced that three soldiers are suspects in last year's murder of Theys. However, the military did not announce the names or ranks of the suspects.

Many believe that the suspects being detained at the Military Police Headquarters in Jakarta are members of the Army's Special Forces (Kopassus), the Jakarta Post said.

Koesparmono Irsan, who leads the government team set up by Megawati to investigate Theys’ murder, earlier said that the names of the suspects would be announced by the Indonesian President.

"We are waiting for the official announcement of the suspects' names," Salossa said.

The governor said he had no knowledge of where the Theys murder trial would be held, and that it was the central government's responsibility.

However, he again expressed his desire for the trial to be held in Jayapura, the Jakarta Post reported.

Indonesian military forces commander Admiral Widodo A.S. promised on Tuesday that any soldiers found guilty in the murder of Theys would be severely punished.

Theys, the chairman of the Papua Presidium Council, was found dead in his car hours after leaving the Kopassus compound in Jayapura. He had attended a National Hero's Day event last November 10.

His driver, Aristoteles Masoka, is believed to be a witness to the murder, but his whereabouts remains unknown.

Several people have told members of the military and police investigation teams that they saw a man they believed to be Aristoteles arrive at the Kopassus compound after the murder took place.

In Geneva, the World Council of Churches has called for an independent inquiry into the killing.

Martin Doolard, of the council, told the United Nations Human Rights Commission that most West Papuans viewed the death of Theys as a deliberate act by the state authorities to silence him.

He urged the United Nations commission, currently holding its annual six-week session, to use its influence to move the Indonesian government to stop the repression of people in the region.

West Papuans should be allowed to exercise their right to self-determination, he said.

Doolard was quoted by the AFP news agency as saying:

"We also urge the commission to call on the Indonesian government to establish a credible, legal, independent inquiry team that includes international human rights experts, to investigate the involvement of state institutions in the assassination of Theys and to bring the perpetrators to justice."

* In Jayapura, Papua Police said they had arrested two members of the militant Muslim group Laskar Jihad on charges of possessing homemade firearms, the Jakarta Post said.

Papua Police chief Inspector-General Made Mangku Pastika said in Jayapura: "The two suspects were arrested in Sorong and Fak Fak regencies after they were found carrying firearms."

Pastika's statement clearly confirmed the local authorities' recognition of the presence of the Java-based Laskar Jihad, which they had earlier denied.

The police also found leaflets from the Muslim extremist group, which Pastika said could incite religious conflict in the predominantly Christian province.

At least 200 members of Laskar Jihad have been conducting religious activities in three regencies that have Muslim migrants from other parts of Indonesia.

Ayip Syafruddin, spokesman for the militant group, said last week that the new members have arrived to expand "the organization's branches" in Papua.

They have set up six regency branches of their group in Papua, he said. They are also engaged in promoting Islam and educational activities, and are publishing bulletins and a tabloid newssheet for Muslims in the province, he added.

However, pro-independence Papuan leaders object to the presence of Laskar Jihad, which they said has sparked unrest among Papuans. Laskar Jihad has been distributing VCD tapes depicting sectarian fighting in the Maluku Islands, they said.

Papuan religious leaders, including those from Buddhist, Hindu and Muslim groups, held a meeting with Governor Salossa and other senior local government officials. They discussed security issues over the presence of Laskar Jihad, the Jakarta Post reported.

Salossa called on Papuans to remain alert against possible provocation by a certain group attempting to spark new conflict in the country's easternmost province.

"All Papuans should unite their vision to avert unforeseen events," he said.

Papuan Muslim leader Zuberir Husein said local Islamic groups will not tolerate any possible attempt by Laskar Jihad to create chaos in the region, the Jakarta Post reported.

The Muslim community has so far lived peacefully in Papua and is free to perform their religious activities without any disturbance from followers of other religions, he said.

Laskar Jihad has been blamed for further worsening the sectarian conflicts in Maluku and Poso regency in Central Sulawesi, conflicts which resulted in the killing of thousands of people and forced thousands of others to flee.

West Papua, bordering Papua New Guinea, was a Dutch colony, like Indonesia. In the 1960s the Indonesians, who had won their own independence from Dutch colonial rule, began fighting to take control of West Papua from the Dutch.

The province was officially taken over following a controversial 1969 referendum after the Dutch departed.

Pro-independence West Papuans call the referendum a sham and say only a small number of men who were intimidated by the Indonesian military were allowed to take part.

Human rights activists accuse Indonesian security forces of human rights abuses in Papua and say thousands of people have died in years of fighting.

Indonesian governments have encouraged the transmigration east of mainly Muslim Asian migrants from the country's crowded main islands to West Papua.

West Papuans are mainly Melanesian and Christian.

The current Indonesian government recently granted West Papua more autonomy, allowed its official provincial name to be changed from Irian Jaya to Papua and given the province a greater share of revenue from its exploited resources.

Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) Website: http://www.pinanius.org 

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