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Political Prisoner Ex-inmates from Papua demand freedom

17 August 2002

Hundreds of former Papuan political prisoners and their relatives demanded independence from Indonesia during a peaceful protest in the provincial legislative council compound on Thursday.

And in separate developments, Maj. Gen. Mahidin Simbolon, chief of the Trikora Military Command overseeing Papua (Irian Jaya), ordered soldiers not to be scared of committing human rights abuses when quelling separatism in the province.

"We must kill as many of our enemies as possible. Human rights are something we must not worry about but must consider," he told a group of soldiers returning to North Sumatra from Papua.

The independence demonstrators were protesting against the province's integration with Indonesia in 1963, based on the tripartite New York agreement between Indonesia, the Netherlands and the United Nations.

"Papuan people declared the territory's independence in 1963 but the former Dutch colonial ruler and the UN supported its integration with Indonesia in the same year. Indonesia minus Papua declared its independence on August 17, 1945," Advisory Council for Reconciliation of Papuan Ex-Political Prisoners chairman Saul Bomay said as he addressed the crowd.

He said the New York agreement signed on August 15, 1963, was reached without the approval of the Papuan people.

Saul called on Papuans not to celebrate Indonesia's Independence Day on August 17, because Papua had its own independence day.

He said that during almost 40 years of Indonesian rule, thousands of Papuans who fought for the territory's independence had been killed and the region's natural resources plundered by Jakarta without any compensation for the Papuan people.

Celcius Wapay, another former political prisoner, insisted that independence was the only solution. "Special Autonomy is not the right answer to the Papua question. It is only a quick political fix that will never solve the problem," he said.

The demonstrators, who had pledged not to raise the Morning Star flag during their rally, dispersed peacefully after meeting several legislators.

Yance Kayami, chairman of the legislature's Commission A on public administration and security, pledged to pass on the demonstrators' concerns to the central government.

Publised in the Jakarta Post © Jakarta Post

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