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  Megawati bad news for Papua independence hope activist says

10 August 2000

forwarded from ETAN

By Jackie Woods, Sydney.

A transfer of power in Indonesia which will see Vice President Megawati Sukarnoputri handle the bulk of domestic affairs will exacerbate the already tense situation in Papua, a leading independence activist said Thursday.

A large buildup of troops over the last two days in the province, formerly Irian Jaya on the Indonesian side of New Guinea, is also of serious concern, said Otto Ondawame, Australian-based international spokesman for the Free Papua Movement (OPM).

Ondawame said Megawati's strong nationalist policies combined with her close ties to the Indonesian military are likely to result in a severe crackdown on the Papuan independence movement.

''Megawati is a new face but...she is even more nationalistic and more intolerant than (President Abdurrahman) Wahid,'' Ondawame said in an interview with Kyodo News.

Wahid announced Wednesday that in a wide-ranging government shake-up he will hand much of the responsibility for domestic affairs to Megawati while maintaining a figurehead role and responsibility for international affairs for himself.

Ondawame, one of 31 members of the West Papuan National Council responsible for negotiating with the Indonesian government, said that despite Megawati's background as a popular opposition figure to former President Suharto she does not have strong democratic credentials and since joining government has forged close ties with the former Suharto party Golkar and with the military.

''She actually was against Golkar before but now the military and Golkar and Megawati are hand in hand to restore the militarisation in Indonesia. She's just a puppet for the others,'' Ondawame said.

He added a reported buildup of troops in Papua since Tuesday is an ominous development that could signal the beginning of a dramatic increase in violence.

Jacob Rumbiak, a Papuan academic living in Melbourne, said in a statement he had received a call early Wednesday morning from a church source in the western part of the province saying 6,500
special forces troops were deployed Tuesday across all of Papua's 13 regencies.

The deployment came just hours after the Indonesian People's Consultative Assembly (MPR) decided Tuesday to reject Papua's demands for independence and instead grant some autonomy, Rumbiak said.

Ondawame described the current security situation in Papua as ''very, very serious.''

Adding to the instability are a proliferation of East Timor-style pro-Jakarta militias and an increase in hard-line Islamic activists arriving via the troubled Maluku Islands to inflame tensions between local Christians and Muslim settlers from other Indonesian islands, he said.

Ondawame estimated there are between 5,000 and 7,000 people operating in militias trained and armed by the Indonesian military.

Indonesia has shown it is willing to use any means to crush independence and without international intervention the situation could deteriorate into a civil war, he warned.

Kabar Iraian ('Irian News). Note: All items are posted for their news/information content. They are
not necessarily the views of or subscribers.

Forwarded by East Timor Action Network/US.

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