Thu, 30 Nov 2000

Police arrest chiefs of Papua Council

JAKARTA (JP): Irian Jaya Police arrested on Wednesday proindependence figure Theys Hiyo Eluay for alleged treason as people in the province were bracing for a rally to commemorate the unrecognized 1961 declaration of independence on Friday.

Provincial police chief Brig. Gen. Sylvanus Yulian Wenas told The Jakarta Post by phone from the Irian Jaya capital of Jayapura that chief of the Papua Presidium Council (PDP) Theys was charged with violating Article 106 and 110 of the Criminal Code, which carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.

"We have sufficient evidence and lots of witnesses in this case. Therefore we arrested him for questioning," Wenas said.

Another proindependence leader, PDP secretary-general and Muslim leader Thaha Al Hamid, was arrested for similar charges earlier in the day.

Both Theys and Thaha are in provincial police custody.

Wenas said the police are now searching for Rev. Herman Awom, who reportedly is in Purwokerto, Central Java, PDP member Don Flassy, said to be in Jakarta, and Jhon Mambor, reportedly still in Jayapura.

Tension was building on Wednesday from fear an uncertainty of the consequences of the rally, scheduled to take place in Taman Imbi park.

The mass exodus of migrants continued as seen in the province's airports of Sentani, Biak and Sorong and seaports in Jayapura, Biak, Sorong and Manokwari, a local reporter said.

"Residents looked terrified ahead of the Dec. 1 commemoration and after the news of Theys' arrest ... but then the situation began to calm," he said.

Reports said two extra battalions of Army Strategic Reserves Command (Kostrad) troops have been deployed to the province amid fears of violence during Friday's rally.

Earlier in the day, the Irian Jaya provincial legislative council issued a message calling on people in the province, including migrants, to stay calm and avoid "provocation by irresponsible parties".

Friday's rally will see mass prayers and the lowering of Morning Star separatist flags.

Under an agreement between the provincial authorities and PDP activists on Nov. 9, the separatist flag will have to be lowered on Dec. 1, but some could be raised again the next day -- one flag in five of the province's 14 districts.

Among the places where the flag can be raised will be at the residences of tribal chiefs in the districts of Puncak Jaya, Merauke, Manokwari and Serui, and outside Theys' home in Sentani in Jayapura's outskirt.

Wenas said he would not release Theys and Thaha on the day when their supporters attend the rally.

"December 1 commemoration will be marked with a mass prayer, therefore it can be conducted anywhere, even in the detention house," Wenas added.

As for Christmas and Idul Fitri celebration, Wenas said he would consider giving the two local leaders a day off provided "they behave properly, according to the law".

A ministerial meeting on security and political affairs in Jakarta on Wednesday recommended security arrangements for Irian Jaya, Aceh and Jakarta prior to Friday's rally and the commemoration of the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) anniversary on Monday.

Spokesman for the Coordinating Minister for Political, Social and Security Affairs I Wayan Karya said after the meeting the government would apply stern measures in anticipation of disturbances in the coming days.

"The actions include the arrest of those accused of violating the law. Strict measures are the last resort if persuasive manners are fruitless," Wayan said.

Wayan said the government is completing the draft of special autonomy status for Aceh and Irian Jaya as part of a comprehensive settlement to problems in the two restive provinces.

Meanwhile, a Jakarta-based Irian figure Yorrys Raweyai said the arrest of Theys and Thaha is "a reality that must be accepted in compliance with the law".

"As a friend I'm very concerned, but this is a consequence we have to brave. As for me being the next target, I believe that I'm not doing anything wrong but maybe they (police) have something against me. Nobody knows," he told the Post by phone.

Yorrys also said that he would stay in Jakarta and commemorate the Dec. 1 Papua independence in a prayer in a mess on Jl. K.H. Mas Mansyur, Central Jakarta.

"Actually I wanted to go to Jayapura ... but since the political situation is not conducive, I'll stay and pray in Jakarta," he said. (02/edt)