Sat, 15 Jan 2000

Irian Jaya's name change receives warm welcome

JAKARTA (JP): What's in a name? Quite a lot, according to a youth group from Irian Jaya, or what is now being termed Papua.

A group of Irianese students who claim to represent the West Papuan Community and All-Indonesia Papuan Students Alliance hailed President Abdurrahman Wahid's decision at the start of the new year to grant demands for a change in the name of the province of Irian Jaya to Papua.

"It is a very wise and accountable decision from scientific, historic and legal points of views," group leader Dimianus Wanimbo said.

Dimianus contended that the term Papua was the old name for the territory, dating back to 1511 when Portuguese sailors called it Isla de Papoia.

However, they differed with Abdurrahman on the meaning of Irian.

Dimianis contends that IRIAN was originally an acronym for a pro-Indonesia youth organization established at the end of 1945.

The acronym stands for Ikut Republik Indonesia Anti Nederland (Joining the Republic of Indonesia Anti-Netherlands).

During his visit to the province Abdurrahman said he had decided to change the name because Irian is an Arabic word meaning naked.

While the President has declared the name change, the House of Representatives has yet to officially approve it.

During a gathering earlier this week, the youth group called on the central government to respond to the feverish calls for independence.

Dimianus said one of the key points of discussion would be a government explanation for its 1961 claim over the western part of Papua island while it was under Dutch administration.

"The government's openness is imperative to solve all problems that have led West Papuan people to a feeling that they are not part of Indonesia," he said.

West Papua was integrated with Indonesia in 1963 after a popular consultation under the supervision of the United Nations. Since then the government has changed the name of the region to Irian Jaya.

"The claim over West Papua was driven by the imperialistic ambitions of Sukarno and Muhammad Yamin as aired during sessions of the preparatory board of Indonesia's independence (in 1945)," Dimianis said, adding that other board members, including Mohammad Hatta and A.A. Maramis, initially opposed the proposal.

Clamors for independence have been mounting in the territory, especially as growing accusations of human rights abuses grow.

Independence calls peaked with the hoisting of separatist rebel flags on Dec. 1 to coincide with the 35th anniversary of the supposed declaration of the independence of West Papua.

The students also blamed the international community for supporting Indonesia's claim, which stifled the decolonization process of West Papua.

Meanwhile from Jayapura, Irian Jaya, local legislator Anton Kelanangame on Friday also added to the voice of concern from Indonesia's eastern most province.

He pointed out that most people in the province felt the government were not paying an equal share of attention towards the concerns of people from Irian Jaya unlike Aceh or Maluku.

He added one of the most urgent needs is to resolve various human rights abuses which he claimed were perpetrated by security personnel.

Anton noted that several groups had recommended that the government seriously investigate and resolve these matters.

"However up to now no legal action has been taken to resolve the cases," he told The Jakarta Post.

He remarked in the past Irian Jaya Military commanders, the governor and the province police chief had formed a team to investigate these cases however nothing has come out of it.

"That's why some Papuans have come to the conclusion that the rights abuses were purposely committed to eradicate ethnic Papuans," he charged. (04/eba)