Mon, 17 Sep 2001

Irian rebel leader confirmed dead

JAYAPURA, Irian Jaya (JP): Secretary-General of the Papuan Presidium Council Taha Alhamid said here on Sunday that the dead body found at the Kumundu river, one of the tributaries of the Maro river, in Merauke regency, Irian Jaya province, last Tuesday was that of Willem Onde, the leader of the Papua Liberation Front Army (TPNP) in Merauke.

Taha informed the The Jakarta Post of this at his residence in Jayapura seconds after he received confirmation by telephone from Merauke that it was Willem Onde's body.

"The body of Onde's adjutant Juhanis Toming was also found at the same place and at the same time. They both had gunshot wounds. Onde had two gunshot wounds in the chest," Taha said. He added that he did not want to speculate about who was responsible for the death of the two. "But what I do know is that there has been no rift between the TPNP and the Free Papua Movement (OPM)."

The TPNP is the armed wing of the OPM.

According to Taha, Onde sent a letter to President Megawati Soekarnoputri in August, asking for, among other things, amnesty for five functionaries of the Papuan Presidium Council who are charged with subversion. The five are now under house arrest.

"In the letter Onde also demanded that political talks on Irian Jaya be continued," Taha said.

Onde, known for his closeness to the Indonesian Army in Merauke, was believed to have been involved in the two-week abduction of 13 employees of the Asiki, Merauke-based South Korean timber firm PT Korindo, which took place early in January of this year.

Taha said that everybody should remain calm, and should not be provoked by the death of Onde.

Irian Jaya Police spokesman Comr. Zulkifli AR said on Sunday that he had not yet received an official report about Onde's death. "We just heard about it on the radio. We cannot speculate about who was behind the murder or what the motive was."

Earlier on Saturday, Trikora Military Commander Maj. Gen. Mahidin Simbolon said that he had heard nothing about the finding of Onde's body. (35/edt/sur).