Wed, 14 Jun 2000

Papuan presidium to meet with Abdurrahman over congress

JAYAPURA, Irian Jaya (JP): The presidium of the Papuan People's Congress plans to meet with President Abdurrahman Wahid on June 25 to submit the result of the recent congress which declared their desire to separate from Indonesia.

The presidium's secretary-general, Thoha Al Hamid, said on Tuesday that the delegation would be led by presidium chairman Theys H. Eluay and his deputy, Tom Beanal.

Theys will also submit his accountability report on the use of the President's Rp 1 billion (about US$115,000) donation to the congress.

Tom will arrive in Jakarta on Wednesday to arrange the details of the meeting.

"During the meeting, the presidium council will convey the Irian people's aspiration, as reflected by the congress resolution," said Thoha.

The Papuan People's Congress issued a statement on June 4 declaring its intention to separate from Indonesia, a move which has been condemned by the central government.

The President has expressed his disappointment over the result of the congress.

Police in Jayapura have begun an investigation into possible treason against the state by the congress organizers.

On Tuesday morning, police questioned Thoha in his capacity as a suspect in the treason case, along with Theys.

Accompanied by his lawyer, Ainum Siregar, Thoha told journalists that police interrogated him about his involvement in the congress, and the entire process of the seven-day event which started on May 29.

The questioning was led by Capt. Asep, who asked him 15 questions during three hours of interrogation. According to Thoha, he was treated well during the questioning and police provided him snacks and drinks.

Ainum said he would also act as Theys' defense lawyer. Without mentioning an exact day, Ainum said Theys was ready to face police questioning.

Police will also question the chairman of the congress steering committee, Agus Alua, in his capacity as a witness in the treason case.

Irian Jaya Police chief of detectives Col. Tukarno said Thoha and Theys were named suspects for their alleged involvement in a series of proindependence rallies since late last year, including the hoisting of the Papuan Morning Star flag on Dec. 1.

Theys did not turn up at the police office as he had a separate meeting with Trikora Military Commander Maj. Gen. Albert Ingkiriwang.

Separately, Theys said the council had set up several working teams, including a negotiation team to deal with Indonesia and the international community, as a follow up to the congress recommendations.

"As the people have decided to separate from the Republic of Indonesia, the central government is expected to understand this political aspiration," said Theys.

In Jakarta, Irian Jaya Legislative Council (DPRD) speaker T.N. Kaiway said "it's far too late to suppress the Irianese demand for independence."

Kaiway was speaking to reporters after a hearing with Commission II of the House of Representatives (DPR) to propose the establishment of four vice governors to cover the province's vast area.

"The central government said that the demand for independence is minuscule. However, the facts show that the demand is deeply rooted among the majority of the people," Kaiway said.

Separately, State Minister of Transmigration and Population Al Hilal Hamdi appealed to 334,000 transmigrants, mostly from Java, to remain calm and continue living in the province.

The state minister said Theys had assured him that the Papuans would respect the rights of the transmigrants.

He cautioned the transmigrants not to make a hasty decision to leave the province, saying living conditions in Java or in their provinces of origin were even worse than in Irian Jaya.

"Unemployment rates are very high in other provinces. So if they want to return home for better lives, it is wrong," the minister told Antara.

The transmigration sites in Irian Jaya are concentrated in Timika, Jayapura, Merauke, Fakfak and Manokwari. (eba/44/08/prb)