Thu, 10 Jul 2003

No plan for martial law in Papua: Susilo

Nethy Dharma Somba, The Jakarta Post, Jayapura, Papua

Unlike the conflict-plagued province of Aceh, the central government does not have any immediate plans to impose martial law to wipe out the independence rebels in Papua, but is hoping for a peaceful solution instead, the chief security minister said here on Wednesday.

"There will be no martial law in Papua because the problems in this province can be handled properly and violence will be avoided for as long as possible," he said.

Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono made the statement while speaking to students and teachers at the University of Cendrawasih (Uncen) in the town of Abepura, Papua.

Fears have surfaced that the government would soon impose martial law in Papua and other troubled regions following the war in Aceh, where civilians have reportedly suffered most from the frequent battles between rebels and troops.

Susilo said Papua currently was troubled by two substantial problems -- one with economic disparity (in relation to the western parts of Indonesia), and the other with separatism.

"The two problems pose a serious threat to national unity and territorial integrity, if not addressed adequately," he added.

The central government officially signed into law the Papua special autonomy package in 2001, with which the resource-rich province was supposed to receive greater shares of its economic resources, but there have been many snags and full implementation is yet to be realized.

The police have reportedly made some attempts to appease the separatist groups with nonviolent measures.

Susilo said the special autonomy was part of an effort to solve the economic and separatist problems in Papua "peacefully, honorably and justly".

"If the Papuan people's welfare improves, the wish to secede from the country will die down," added the coordinating minister for political and security affairs.

However, despite the special autonomy law, the economic disparities remain wide between Papua other provinces and the various separatist groups have been pressing ahead with their independence movements.

The latest violent incident took place on Monday, when police shot dead one Papuan, wounded two and detained two others as they hoisted a separatist flag to mark what they called the New Melanesian anniversary.

Analysts have said that separatism would not stop because the central government in Jakarta had failed to fulfill their promises to seriously enforce and implement special autonomy in the nation's easternmost province.

Susilo said that should separatists continue with their campaign, peace and prosperity would never come to Papua. "Therefore, the government will press ahead with efforts to fight separatism," he added.

The senior minister added that President Megawati Soekarnoputri's government had put the Papua problems near the top of its agenda for the 2003-2004 period.

"Indonesia's integrity is final, so the government will never allow any more provinces to secede," he said, noting that most foreign countries supported the country's integrity after East Timor successfully gained its independence in 1999.

Monday's dialog at Uncen was presided over by the state university rector Frans Wospakrik and no antigovernment protests took place on Wednesday, the final day of Susilo's two-day visit to Papua.