Tue, 11 Mar 2003

Papuans protest new provinces

JAYAPURA, Papua: A crowd of some 100 students demonstrated on Monday before the provincial legislature against Jakarta's move to split Papua into three provinces, arguing it would attract more migrants to the natural resources-rich, yet sparely populated region.

Calling themselves the Mid-Mountain People's Care Forum, the protesters, mostly students, argued that dividing Papua in three provinces benefited Jakarta but would harm locals.

They feared an influx of migrants, reasoning Papuans were unlikely to fill all the new posts needed to run the two new provincial governments.

Locals have long complained about discrimination by migrants since the region came under Indonesian rule during the 1960s.

Poverty and unemployment remains a problem in Papua despite its advanced exploitation of natural resources. As education has been lacking, most of the higher-paid jobs have been filled by outsiders.

Monday's rally was the third since President Megawati Soekarnoputri approved the addition of two new provinces to Papua last January.

The move is aimed to bring better public services to the 2.4 million Papuans who live in a region about three times the size of Java. -- JP