Fri, 08 Dec 2000

Gus Dur wants release of leaders in Irian Jaya

JAKARTA (JP): President Abdurrahman Wahid called on the police on Thursday to release Irian Jaya pro-independence leaders currently in detention so that dialog between Jakarta and locals in the troubled province could resume.

Speaking to reporters after meeting with Abdurrahman at Merdeka Palace, secretary of the Irian Jaya chapter of the Communion of Churches in Indonesia (PGI) Karel Phil Erari said Abdurrahman was "surprised" when he found out that "his order to release PPC (the Papuan Presidium Council) leaders had not been carried out by the provincial police chief".

"Gus Dur said he instructed police to free them by Dec. 5, so that the dialog (between the government and pro-independence supporters) could resume," he said referring to the President by his nickname.

Theys Eluay and several other pro-independence supporters were arrested by police last week.

He said the arrest "could indirectly be considered as an attempt to provoke Irianese people to put up resistance".

Karel said his meeting with the President on Thursday was aimed at expressing concerns about the deteriorating situation in Irian Jaya.

Also present on Thursday were national legislators from Irian Jaya province Simon Patrice Morin and Lukas Degey, both from the Golkar Party, and Irianese community leader Michael Menufandu.

Karel said "political and security developments on the ground have shown that the central government is intent on creating preconditions for imposing repressive measures (in the province)."

"The strong indication of this approach is that troops have been mobilized and leaders of the Papuan Presidium Council have been arrested," he said in a four-page statement distributed to journalists after the meeting.

Karel said Irianese leaders deplored that there had been "systematic attempts by a certain group of political elite from the central government to create a climate that would legitimize the imposition of civil emergency or even martial law in Papua".

"These people have been exploiting the President's green light (to the Papuans) to raise the Morning Star flag as an issue of disintegration to discredit the President," Karel said in the statement.

"The hoisting of the Morning Star flag should not be blown out of proportion as an impending sign of disintegration because the Papua problem is actually only a problem of injustice," Karel said.

"We, therefore, call on the central government to immediately set up a commission to facilitate a dialog between the central government and local people to seek solutions to the Papua problem," Karel said. (byg)