Wed, 18 Oct 2000

Irianese reach modus vivendi on flag

JAYAPURA, Irian Jaya (JP): The provincial authorities and proindependence leaders agreed late on Tuesday to delay the pulling down of Morning Star separatist flags here pending a meeting with President Abdurrahman Wahid.

"This decision is a compromise to avoid possible clashes between proindependence activists and the security forces," Governor Musiran Darmosuwito said after the session, which ended at 8:30 p.m. local time.

"It has also been decided that Morning Star flags which have been lowered in other cities such as Biak, Fak Fak, Wamena, Sorong and Manokwari must not be hoisted again," Musiran added.

The remaining separatist flags are flying at the Papuan Presidium Council (PDP) base in the Irian Jaya Arts Council building on Jl. Irian and at the house of the PDP's chairman Theys Hiyo Eluay in the Sentani district.

The central government slapped a ban last week on the flying of the Morning Star separatist flag following the bloody incident in Jayawijaya's main town of Wamena, in which at least 30 people, mostly migrant settlers, were killed and 45 others injured on Oct. 6.

Tension remained high here on Tuesday, with panic buying seen at markets selling food supplies, following rumors of conflict between the security forces and proindependence Papuan civilian guards.

"The situation is very tense and thousands of residents from neighboring villages in Sentani have thronged nearby security posts for protection," a local journalist said.

PDP secretary general Thaha Al Hamid further said that the group insisted on a meeting with President Abdurrahman, saying that the head of state was the first to allow the hoisting of the Morning Star flag here.

"We want to hear answers from the President," Thaha said.

Also attending the meeting were the Irian Jaya Police chief Brig. Gen. Silvanus Yulian Wenas and the Trikora Military Command chief of staff Brig. Gen. Karel Ralaharu.

Prior to the meeting, some 200 PDP and local community leaders held a closed-door meeting at the Pengharapan Church which ended up with a refusal to lower the separatist flags.

"I am ready to die along with thousands of Papuans. If the security forces want to arrest us, they must take us all," Theys said.

Earlier in the day, Brig. Gen. S.Y. Wenas held talks with non- Papua residents and local nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) on the latest situation in the provincial capital.

Wenas said he suspected certain foreign parties had provoked the separatist movement in the province.

He therefore called on local nongovernmental organizations to decline offers and promises from foreign counterparts.

"The security forces will no longer tolerate the hoisting of the flag and call on all sides to help restore peace and order by voluntarily lowering it," Wenas told the meeting.

In Semarang, the capital of Central Java, some 75 Irianese youths grouped in the Kejora Youth and Student Committee staged a protest in front of the provincial police headquarters on Jl. Pahlawan to protest the military and police presence in their homeland.

"The police and military in Papua have triggered further conflict and fear," Kotel Mause, the group's leader, said during a meeting with Central Java Police chief Maj. Gen. Kadaryanto.

Kadaryanto, however, said that the police would be evenhanded in their approach towards all citizens.

"We will not protect officers who are found guilty of human rights violations," he said. The protesters dispersed peacefully later in the day. (34/har/edt)