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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (June 3, 2002 – Post-Courier)---A papal representative from Rome has been asked to convey a petition to the Pope to support the West Papuan call for independence.

President of the West Papua National Congress Michael Kareth gave the petition to Cardinal Jan Schotte at the Catholic Theological Institute, Bomana, on Friday.

Mr. Kareth said the petition seeks international support for the international joint conference on West Papua to be held in PNG in November.

"It is a petition calling for the Holy Father (Pope) to recognize the Republic of West Papua as an independent state," he said.

"We need support from the Vatican."

He said West Papua was publicly declared a republic on November 27, 1997 at the Office of the President of the European Parliament in Belgium.

Mr. Kareth said groups such as the Papua New Guinea Council of Churches, Caritas PNG, the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu supported the petition.

Some influential PNG leaders, including Speaker of Parliament Bernard Narokobi,

Secretary General of the Papua New Guinea Council of Churches Sophia Gegeyo, Mr John Tekwie and prominent lawyer Powes Parkop morally support the West Papuan quest for independence, Mr. Kareth alleged.

He claimed that the petition had the full backing and support of the West Papuan people.

Recognition for independence will be the main agenda at the upcoming international joint conference on West Papua.

Mr. Kareth said West Papuans would push for Indonesia, the U.S., the European Union and other independent states and organizations to recognize West Papua’s independence.

He said during the November conference, the West Papua Congress would:

* Announce the proposed state constitution and other state instruments;

* Announce the shadow government for West Papua; and

* Ask for total control of their affairs from the Indonesian government.

Mr. Kareth said they planned to have between 300 to 500 West Papuans attending the conference, which will be held in Papua New Guinea.

"We are not fighting with Indonesia. We are calling for Indonesia to respect that we are ready to govern ourselves," he said.

West Papua was formerly a Dutch colony. It was not included as part of Indonesia when Indonesia gained independence on December 27 1949. But, under the Act of Free Choice conducted by the United Nations in 1965, West Papua was declared a province of Indonesia.

Since then various militant indigenous groups have protested against Indonesian rule over West Papua and what they claim are human rights abuses by the Indonesian military.

Mr. Kareth said following East Timor’s independence there is now a ground swell of international support for West Papuan independence.

For additional reports from The Post-Courier, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/The Post-Courier (Papua New Guinea).

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