INDONESIAN MINISTER: NO INDEPENDENCE FOR PAPUA

JAKARTA, Indonesia (PINA, Jan. 1) - Papua's independence movement was given a blunt New Year’s message by Indonesia's senior security minister, saying independence from Indonesia will not be tolerated.

Coordinating Minister for Political and Security Affairs Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said there was no room to hold a vote of self-determination like that in East Timor.

Susilo, a former general, was giving journalists his year-end news briefing, in which he spoke about Papua, a restive province of more than two million people.

Rebels in Papua, which borders Papua New Guinea, have been fighting for independence since Indonesia took over the former Dutch colony in the 1960s.

Amnesty International estimates that at least 100,000 Papuans were killed during the 1967-98 regime of former Indonesian President Suharto. Pro-independence groups claim more.

Indonesia's new democratic government introduced last year a special status for Papua. Under special autonomy, Papua can, among other things, retain up to 70 percent of the revenue derived from its rich natural resources.

The special status, however, has been rejected by pro-independence rebels. They insist they will not settle for anything less than full independence, the Jakarta Post reported.

Susilo stressed that the Indonesian government was determined to maintain the country's territorial integrity, the newspaper said.

"There are three major points that have become top priorities for next year and those are maintaining the existence of Indonesia as a state, keeping national integration and rebuilding Indonesia," Susilo said.

He also said that the government would closely monitor the implementation of special autonomy status in Papua and Aceh, another restive Indonesian province.

"Together, we also have to monitor local administrations in these two provinces to make sure that the special autonomy is able to raise the standard of living for both Papuan and Acehnese," he said.

Papuans have recently stepped up an international campaign for a United Nations review of the 1969 Act of Free Choice under which Indonesia officially took control.

The pro-independence Papuans say the referendum was a sham and only 1,026 men intimidated by the Indonesian military were allowed to take part.

Indonesia had gained control of Papua after the Americans - who feared Indonesia siding with the Soviets in the Cold War - put pressure on the Dutch to leave.

The Indonesians had said Papua should have been included in Indonesia when it won its independence from Dutch colonial rule in 1949.

The Dutch opposed this, saying Papua was geographically and ethnically different from Indonesia. Papuans should over time be allowed to determine their own future, they said.

Meanwhile, amidst the latest incidents on the Papua New Guinea-Indonesian Papua border, police and soldiers from Papua New Guinea maintained patrols.

The National newspaper in Port Moresby reported the Police commander in Vanimo, Joseph Poma, described the situation as "tense because there was a lot of gunshots along the border."

Poma said there has been no report of casualties on Papua New Guinea’s side of the border, adding there were problems with communications in the area.

He said as a result of the clashes between rebels and Indonesian security forces people have stopped crossing to the Indonesian side of the border by land. People from Papua New Guinea were traveling to the nearby Papua provincial capital of Jayapura by boat, he said.

He said people of Wutung, a border village, have stopped going to their gardens for fear of their safety.

January 2, 2003

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