Thu, 04 Dec 2003

Papuans reject Guterres plan to form pro-integration group

Nethy Dharma Somba, The Jakarta Post, Jayapura, Papua

Former East Timorese militia leader Eurico Guterres plans to establish a branch of his pro-integration Red and White Defender Front (FPMP) in troubled Papua province, but local people have opposed it.

"What does he want in Timika (Papua)? What's his goal to set up an organization here? He may have another purpose. Such an organization should not exist in Papua. Currently, we live in peace," local resident Benny said.

Similar resistance came from Alosyus Renwarin, the acting director of the Papua-based Elsham human rights group.

Speaking to reporters in the provincial capital of Jayapura on Wednesday, he said the presence of the Red and White Defender Front in Papua could spark new conflict in the troubled province.

"We already know about Eurico Guterres' track record in Timor Leste (East Timor). He has been involved in gross human rights violations there. Therefore, we strongly reject his presence in Papua," Renwarin said.

Eurico was convicted by an ad hoc human rights court in Jakarta for a rampage in East Timor when it voted for independence from Indonesia in 1999.

The court sentenced him to 10 years in November 2002, but he remains free as he appealed the verdict.

The sentence quickly sparked anger from Eurico, who questioned the fairness of the human rights trial for failing to punish military and police officers for their involvement in the atrocities that marked the territory's breakaway from the republic after 23 years of occupation.

Papua Police chief Insp. Gen. Budi Utomo confirmed Eurico's plan to open a branch of his organization, saying the former East Timorese militia leader had submitted a request with the provincial police for permission.

However, Utomo said he was yet to decide whether to endorse the plan or not.

"I would not take a hasty decision on this matter as we are studying the group's purpose here. If it is to support security, it's no problem. But if its presence is to foment disturbances, we will not issue a permit," he added.

Utomo said the plan would be discussed in a security meeting with senior officials in Papua.

Eurico had issued a letter dated Sept. 16, 2003, ordering the establishment of a FPMP branch office in Mimika regency.

Munawir Yacob, who was recently elected the FPMP secretary of Mimika branch, said he has distributed 1,500 forms to Papuans wanting to register to join his group.

He dismissed the reasons of those opposed to the presence of his group in Papua, arguing the FPMP was a youth organization like others in the province.

"Our goal is to strengthen the unity and cohesion youth in maintaining the unitary state of Indonesia. I think other youth organizations such as AMPI and KNPI have similar visions," Munawir said.

Separatist groups have long been campaigning for independence in Papua, a resource-rich province where people complain about a unfair share of their region's natural resource profits. Rampant human rights abuses have also fueled separatism there.