PRAYERS FOR THEYS AS PAPUANS MARKS 'INDEPENDENCE' DAY

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JAKARTA, Indonesia (PINA Nius Online) – Some 1500 people marked the 41st anniversary of the Papua Council Presidium with prayers at the grave of slain leader Theys Hiyo Eluay, the Jakarta Post reports.

Police said that the ceremony and other celebrations in the Indonesian province have so far passed off peacefully.

"Everything is under control and police is only on standby across Jayapura and the surrounding areas," said police spokesperson Totok Kasmiarto.

The spokesperson added that there had been no reports of the raising of the pro-independence Morning Star flag so far after warnings against by the Indonesian government.

Pro-independence Papuans gathered to mark December 1, the day they believe Papua gained its independence from The Netherlands in 1961.

In Sentani, west of the provincial capital Jayapura, the 1500 people took part in a ceremony at the grave of Eluay. This featured prayers, sermons and tribal rites including the slaughter of pigs.

Eluay was found dead on November 11 last year, hours after he was abducted by unknown men. Nine Indonesian Special Forces Kopassus soldiers are to stand trial for their alleged involvement in his death.

Reverend Herman Awom, a leading member of the pro-independence Papua Presidium, told the Jakarta Post: "There is nothing political in this ceremony. It is both religious and tribal."

The Papua Presidium, Awom said, had earlier Sunday announced that 1, will from now on be known and celebrated as "the Day of Peace for Papua."

He said that there had been no interference by the police during the ceremony at a former football field that now houses the tomb of Theys.

Indonesian President Megawati Soekarnoputeri has earlier said she would not hesitate to take stern measures against activities related to the independence celebration.

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

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