Wed, 09 Jul 2003

Susilo warns Papuans over separatist flag raising

Nethy Dharma Somba, The Jakarta Post, Jayapura, Papua

Chief security minister Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono renewed the government's warning against separatists in the province of Papua on Tuesday. He said separatists would face tougher action from security forces should they go ahead with their secessionist campaign.

The statement was made during his visit to the provincial capital of Jayapura only one day after a Papuan was shot dead and two others were injured by police, while raising a separatist flag on Monday. Two others were detained for questioning.

Susilo said that he regretted that the flag raising incident had occurred. He said police personnel had been forced to fire shots at the separatists.

Such an incident should not have taken place as the government firmly stated that the unitary state of Indonesia is final and no more territories can break away from the country after East Timor in 1999, he said.

"Any separatist movement against Indonesia will be dealt with severely," the visiting coordinating minister for political and security affairs threatened.

Susilo ordered a thorough investigation into the flag raising incident to prevent "misunderstanding by the public" and to discover those behind it.

He said that police were handling the case of the two wounded separatists and their two colleagues (currently being detained).

"I have received a report from the Papua police chief that the two injured are being treated and that those detained will be dealt with according to the legal process," he added.

Papua Police chief Insp. Gen. Budi Utomo said that the two arrested separatists told investigators that the flag was raised due to an order by Matias Wenda, a senior leader of the rebel Free Papua Movement (OPM).

"As a result of their confession we will discover whether the order came from Matias Wenda," he added.

The flag was raised outside the Jayawijaya regency legislative council in the capital city of Wamena by five Papuan separatists to mark what they claimed to be the New Melanesian State's anniversary on July 7.

The ceremony turned violent when police tried to break up the gathering by firing warning shots. Police had spoken earlier to the separatists for over an hour about lowering the flag, but the separatists had refused.

Police said that they fired shots into the air three times but the five men responded by attacking the police with traditional weapons, such as daggers and bows.

The police continued to fire shots at the separatists killing Yus Heselo, 30, and wounding Elias Asso and Welmus Asso.

Two other separatists, identified as Gustaf Ayomi and John Hilapok, escaped without injury and were detained for questioning at the Jayawijaya police office.

Utomo said the separatists were Papuans from the towns of Manokwari and Serui. They came to Jayapura on June 30 before traveling to Wamena to fly the separatist flag.

The New Melanesian group is a new separatist group in Papua. Two other separatist organizations, the OPM and the Papua Presidium Council (PDP), exist in the troubled province.

During the two day trip Susilo also visited the Papua Police Headquarters to inspect home-made firearms and other weapons, which had recently been confiscated from local people.

The chief security minister also spoke to at least 42 former members of the OPM, who had surrendered to local police.

In a ceremony organized by local security forces on June 30, 2003, the former separatist rebels had sworn an oath declaring that they voluntarily rejoined with the unitary state of Indonesia.

OPM rebels were blamed for a series of incidents involving hostages in Papua in their fight for independence from the country.