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Papuan church leaders meet with Yudhoyono

Jakarta Globe - February 2, 2012

Arientha Primanita – The government has vowed to improve the infrastructure and welfare of the people of Papua, but stopped short of committing to an all-inclusive dialogue to address the problems afflicting the restive province.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, flanked by Vice President Boediono and several top cabinet ministers, on Wednesday held a three-hour dialogue with representatives of the Papuan Synod of Churches at the state guesthouse. "They want to work for a future peaceful Papua and want to intensify the dialogue between the various stakeholders. The president welcomed this," Home Affairs Minister Gamawan Fauzi said after the meeting.

He said the representatives of the Christian Protestant and Roman Catholic churches in Papua demanded that the government initiate a dialogue among the nine main parties in Papua so that "there will no longer be any psychological problem hindering good relations."

The nine parties were defined as indigenous Papuans, non-Papuans in Papua, the police, the armed forces, the local government, the central government, companies exploiting the natural resources in the province, the Free Papua Organization (OPM) and exiled Papuans overseas.

Gamawan, however, did not say whether the government engage in such dialogue. Instead he pointed to the government's Unit for the Acceleration of Development in Papua and West Papua (UP4B), a body intended to coordinate development and gauge local aspirations on the ground in the impoverished region.

"We will repair the infrastructure, the ports, the factories needed so that there can be downward pressure on high prices in Papua. We will also build infrastructure for the welfare of the people," Gamawan said.

Meanwhile, the United States on Tuesday called on Indonesia to ensure due process and address grievances in Papua after a court indicted five activists for treason on Monday.

The activists – Forkorus Yaboisembut, Edison Waromi, Selfius Bobbi, Agust Makbrawen Sananay and Dominikus Sorabut – are accused of treason for their declaration last October of an independent West Papuan state and for raising the banned Morning Star flag during a mass peaceful pro-independence Papuan People's Congress on Oct. 19.

The five accused face up to life in prison if found guilty.

"We urge the Indonesian authorities to ensure due process and procedural safeguards in accordance with Indonesian law and Indonesia's international legal obligations for all persons indicted," a US State Department spokesperson said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

"We encourage the Indonesian government to work with the indigenous Papuan population to address their grievances, resolve conflicts peacefully and support development in the Papuan provinces," the spokesperson continued, adding that Washington recognized and respected Indonesia's territorial integrity.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Michael Tene shrugged off the statement, saying that the legal process for the five "has been taking place in accordance to our law."

[Additional reporting from AFP.]