Mon, 18 Sep 2000

VP advises Irianese to rethink freedom calls

JAKARTA (JP): Vice President Megawati Soekarnoputri called on Irianese people on Sunday to reconsider their calls for independence, saying they should learn from "the East Timor experience".

"It is sad that after all this pain and struggle to be part of Indonesia then you emotionally declare your independence," Megawati told a local congress of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI Perjuangan) in the town of Biak.

Megawati, who was on her way back to Jakarta after a visit to Papua New Guinea to attend a celebration marking the 25th anniversary of the country, was referring to the Papuan Congress' declaration in June. Delegates declared that West Papua, or Irian Jaya as the territory is still officially called, was no longer a part of the Republic of Indonesia.

"I think it needs to be reconsidered whether those statements can really be implemented," Megawati said.

"Look at what is happening now in East Timor. One year after they decided to separate from their brothers and sisters, they (East Timorese) are still facing several internal problems," she added.

East Timorese voted overwhelmingly for independence from Indonesia in a UN-organized ballot last year. The result, however, angered pro-Indonesia militias and triggered widespread violence and destruction in the province.

Later in the day, Megawati said that Port Moresby had pledged full support for Indonesia's territorial integrity and Jakarta's authority in Irian Jaya.

Speaking to reporters during the flight from Biak to Jakarta, Megawati also said Papua New Guinean leaders had agreed to step up security at the border to prevent members of Papuan separatist movements from using the area for their bases.

Defying warnings from Jakarta, the Papuan Congress said that Irian has been an independent nation since Dec. 1, 1961.

The date refers to the day when the territory was granted independence from the Netherlands as Indonesia escalated its military campaign to claim sovereignty. Indonesia won the war in 1963 and the annexation was given international recognition in 1969, following a UN-supervised plebiscite.

Pro-independence Irianese argue that the 1962 New York agreement on the plebiscite between Indonesia, the Netherlands and the UN was invalid since they were never consulted abut it. (byg)