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JAKARTA, Indonesia (Irian News/The Jakarta Post) - Police in Manokwari, Papua, arrested on Wednesday 13 people who raised the Morning Star flag to mark the fifth anniversary of Papuan independence.

Also on Wednesday, President Megawati Soekarnoputri issued a decree banning all ceremonies celebrating Papuan independence.

The spokesman for the Papua Police, Senior Commander Josef Iswanto, confirmed that those arrested were detained after they raised the Papuan flag in the yard of the YPK Kanindi elementary school in the town of Manokwari.

The police do not know if those arrested belong to any political or social groups. The Papua Presidium Council (PDP) said earlier it would hold a flag- raising ceremony on Dec. 1 at the former residence of PDP chairman Dortheys "Theys" Hiyo Eluay, who was allegedly killed by soldiers on Nov. 10, 2001, in Sentani, some 40 kilometers north of Jayapura.

Antara news agency reported from Manokwari the police have arrested some 40 people in the regency, including the 13 people arrested in the flag-raising ceremony.

PDP secretary-general Thaha Al Hamid said he received information that followers of separatist leader Michael Kareth would celebrate Papuan independence in Manokwari on Nov. 27, because according to them Papuan independence was declared in Sweden on Nov. 27, 1997. He added that the PDP was not responsible for any independence celebrations other than the one to be held in Sentani.

Ade Heatubun, deputy chairman of the Manokwari legislative council, said that according to information he received a few days ago, the 1

Detained Papuans belonged to Kareth's group.

Also on Wednesday, Megawati called on the authorities in Papua to take strict action against those celebrating Papuan independence.

She did not specifically refer to the planned celebration at the late Theys’ residence in Sentani.

"No activities are allowed to commemorate the self-proclaimed Papuan independence on Dec. 1. The government will take stern measures to disperse any such activities," Megawati said as quoted by Indonesian Evangelist Association chairman Rev. Bambang Widjaja.

Bambang said that during the meeting the President asked him to help deliver the message to Christian adherents in Papua.

"Churches were asked to circulate news of the ban as part of our commitment to supporting the country's territorial integrity," Bambang said.

December is always a crucial month for the security authorities in Aceh and Papua, two provinces that celebrate their own independence anniversaries. PDP and Free Papua plan to celebrate the 41st anniversary of Papuan independence on Dec. 1, while the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) will celebrate the 26th anniversary of Aceh independence on Dec. 4.

The police warned Papuans against raising separatist flags, which deny Jakarta’s control over the territory.

"It has been regulated that the raising of the separatist Bintang Kejora flag is totally prohibited," said Indonesian Police spokesman Insp. Gen. Basyir Barmawi.

According to Basyir, the Indonesian Police would not tolerate any parties who ignored the warning.

Meanwhile, Indonesian Military (TNI) chief Gen. Endriartono Sutarto said foreign intervention was hampering TNI's efforts to maintain Papua as an Indonesian province.

In a hearing with House of Representative Commission I for security and foreign affairs, Endriartono said a number of foreign countries with interests in Papua were harming the security situation in the country's eastern-most province.

"I am not optimistic we can solve the separatist problems in Papua ... because the province has more potential (than Aceh to become independent) because it has the support of many foreign countries," Endriartono said without elaborating.

The TNI's chief of general affairs, Lt. Gen. Djamari Chaniago, said the separatist movement in Papua used diplomacy to seek international support for the province's independence, leaving the military at a loss as to how to deal with the problem.

"We can only deal with armed struggles like in Aceh ... we are not allowed to deal at a political level ... that's the difference between the separatist movements in Papua and Aceh," Djamari said.

Separatist movements in both Papua and Aceh, two resource-rich provinces, gathered pace after the government proved itself unable to improve the welfare of the people in the provinces or to bring justice those guilty of human rights abuses in the areas.

The situation in the provinces is still tense even though the government has offered them special authority to handle their own affairs under special autonomy schemes

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