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Governor warns of drawn-out rebellion in Papua

Jakarta Post - July 9, 2004

Muninggar Sri Saraswati, Jakarta – The central government's reluctance to implement Law No. 21/2001 on special autonomy status for Papua might incite a separatist movement in the province, a court was told.

"The government's wishy-washy policies have made Papuans doubt the central government's commitment to developing the province," Papua Governor J.P. Salossa told the Constitutional Court on Thursday.

Salossa was testifying at a Constitutional Court hearing on the partition of Papua province in 2003.

Chairman of the Papua Legislative Council (DPRD) John Ibo had filed for judicial review of the government's decision to partition Papua into three new provinces – Papua, Central Irian and West Irian.

The government appeared to be reluctant to implement the autonomy law to the fullest, which calls for the establishment of the Papuan People's Assembly (MRP) to approve all policies issued by the provincial administration. The assembly does not exist as yet.

"I have tried to discuss it with the President, but to no avail," Salossa said.

The hearing was the culmination of a series of debates on the separation of Papua.

In a previous hearing, Jayapura Bishop Leo Labalaja also testified that all elements of Papua society would likely join hands in a movement to separate from Indonesia if the government insisted on splitting the province.

However, acting West Irian Governor Brig. Gen. (ret) Abraham Atururi, who supports the partition, claimed in another hearing that the partition would benefit West Irian Jaya residents, whose province is well-endowed with natural resources.

Papuans, Salossa said, doubted the commitment of the central government to develop the province after President Megawati Soekarnoputri issued a presidential instruction in 2003 to speed up enforcement of the law on the province's partition.

"They consider it against the law on special autonomy for Papua. If the government is afraid of the establishment of the MRP, which might lessen the authority of the central government, Papuans are ready to talk about it, but don't ignore it," he said.

The Papuan government submitted to the Ministry of Home Affairs the proposal on the planned MRP but the ministry has yet to endorse it.

The central government has delayed many times the establishment of the body, apparently through fear that the assembly would encourage Papuans to demand independence.

Law No. 45/1999, which divides the province into three, was issued by the government of president B.J. Habibie in a bid to reduce calls for freedom for Papua following a meeting with some 100 Papuan leaders, who threatened to secede from the country.

Unfortunately, legislators involved in deliberations on Law No. 21/2001 failed to include an article stipulating that Law No. 45/1999 was not legally binding.

The Constitutional Court, which started to hear the case months ago, has not yet been able to reach a conclusion.

"We must be very careful in handling this – it's a delicate matter," Constitutional Court President Jimly Asshidiqie said.

He revealed that Papuans had placed high hopes on the government when it revoked Law No. 45/1999 on the separation of Papua into three provinces. "They believed that the law would support their desire for self-development, making decisions for their own good," Salossa said.

Documents show US backed sham Papua referendum

Associated Press - July 10, 2004

Jakarta – The United States supported former dictator Suharto when he incorporated West Papua into Indonesia in 1969 after a self-determination vote later dismissed as a sham, newly declassified documents show. "You should tell Suharto that we understand the problems they face in West Papua," US National Security Adviser Henry Kissinger wrote President Richard Nixon before Nixon's July 1969 trip to Indonesia, according to the US State Department documents.

The documents were received Saturday from the Washington-based National Security Archive think tank.

Nixon's trip coincided with an Indonesian-run vote in which West Papua tribal and community leaders – hand-picked by Jakarta – unanimously chose to join Indonesia.

Improving relations with Indonesia's authoritarian regime was then a US priority. Kissinger characterized Suharto as a "moderate military man ... committed to progress and reform."

In the newly declassified papers, Kissinger advised the president that "you should not raise this [West Papua] issue" with Suharto, "except to note US sympathy with Indonesia's concerns."

The vote, used to justify Suharto's annexation of West Papua, is now generally viewed as a sham. Top UN officials who supervised Indonesia's takeover have admitted that most West Papuans were intentionally excluded.

Human rights groups say at least 100,000 people have died since 1969 in continuing resistance to West Papua's integration. The sparsely populated province is rich in natural resources.

Successive US administrations have backed Jakarta in its insistence that West Papua remain Indonesian.