Sat, 09 Dec 2000

Ministers say Theys' release unlikely

JAKARTA (JP): Security authorities rejected on Friday a request by President Abdurrahman Wahid to release Irian Jaya proindependence leader Theys Hiyo Eluay.

Coordinating Minister for Political, Social and Security Affairs Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said during a breaking of the fast gathering at his office that the President's request could not be delivered for the sake of the ongoing investigation process into Theys, who has been charged with subversion.

"The National Police chief told the meeting the arrest had been made in order to find concrete evidence of violations of the law allegedly committed by Theys," Susilo said, referring to a ministerial meeting he presided over earlier in the day.

The meeting was also attended by Minister of Home Affairs and Regional Autonomy Surjadi Soedirdja, Minister of Defense Mahfud M.D., Indonesian Military Chief Adm. Widodo A.S. and National Police Chief Gen. Surojo Bimantoro.

Susilo said he asked Bimantoro during the meeting about the possibility of immediately discharging Theys after Gus Dur, as the President is better known, called him and suggested that the Irian Jaya figure should have been released on Dec. 5.

"When we proposed the possibility of putting Theys under house or city arrest, the National Police chief suggested that it would be best to detain Theys until the investigation was completed," Susilo said.

"Although we have never received a formal order from the President to release the suspect, we decided to precipitate the investigation. This move will both meet the President's request and prevent us from breaking the law."

Theys and four other Irian Jaya proindependence activists grouped in the Papuan Presidium Council were arrested prior to and after the observance of the unrecognized 1961 declaration of independence for Irian, also known as Papua.

At least 16 people have died over the past week in a series of violent incidents related to the growing clamor for independence in the easternmost province.

Susilo also admitted that Abdurrahman had warned Bimantoro during a Cabinet meeting following Theys' arrest to "be careful in arresting members of the Papuan Presidium Council or radical elements in Irian Jaya out of regard for both possible domestic and international consequences."


Speaking after Friday prayer at his private residence in Ciganjur, South Jakarta, the President admitted that there had been "a difference of opinion" between him and top security and political ministers regarding Theys' arrest.

He claimed this discrepancy had prompted the ministers to convene a meeting on the matter, a claim which was later denied by Susilo, who said the meeting had been planned.

Abdurrahman said he had ordered the Irian Jaya Police chief to free Theys, and questioned why the Irian figure was treated worse than many of the corruptors who remained at large.

"In today's newspapers, it has been reported that I was quoted by a priest from the PGI as saying that I have instructed the police to release Theys ... I really did say that, but, the government has a different opinion on this," he said referring to his Thursday meeting with the secretary of the Irian Jaya chapter of the Communion of Churches in Indonesia, Karel Phil Erari.

"On my way to Friday prayers, I called Pak Yudhoyono to tell him that there have been conflicting statements ... and then he said that today (Friday) at 2 p.m., he is going to hold a meeting," the President said.

He continued, "it would be better to hold a dialog with Theys and his colleagues rather than continue fighting...we could lose a lot of blood".

Abdurrahman was quoted by Karel as saying on Thursday that the President was "shocked" when he found out that his order to release the Papuan Presidium Council leaders, including Theys, had not been carried out by the local police.

The President's statement came as defense minister Mahfud denied earlier in the day Karel's claim that Abdurrahman had ordered the release of several proindependence leaders, including Theys.

"The legal process must continue," Mahfud told reporters after meeting Abdurrahman at the Merdeka Palace.

"The President has never ordered the release of Theys...He may have thought about it, but he never ordered it. Just cross-check with the police."

In a separate interview, National Police spokesman Brig. Gen. Saleh Saaf said that police were still waiting for the President's official order to release Theys.

"We have yet to find out if the President really ordered the release. If it's true, we still have to see if (Theys) is no longer needed (for police questioning)," Saleh told reporters at police headquarters. (02/byg/jaw)